For Mimi Baird, the book serves as closure; for general readers, it’s a sobering account of how little we knew and how much...

HE WANTED THE MOON

THE MADNESS AND MEDICAL GENIUS OF DR. PERRY BAIRD, AND HIS DAUGHTER'S QUEST TO KNOW HIM

The author was 6 in 1944 when her father, Perry Baird, was remanded to Westborough State Hospital in Massachusetts, diagnosed with manic-depressive psychosis and disappearing from her life. Here, she reconstructs the past in a moving, melancholy memoir.

Though her mother closed the door to information, the emotional longing remained, and in 1994, the author received a manuscript her father had written at Westborough in which he described his illness, what he thought caused it and his experiences as a patient. Thus, using his own words, augmented by letters, medical records and interviews, she sketches the life of a man who had done brilliantly in college and medical school—even co-authoring a paper with the eminent physiologist Walter Cannon—but who would be felled by psychosis. Because he was already showing signs of illness, Cannon advised Baird to practice dermatology to avoid the stresses of a research career. He did well until violent manic episodes mounted and he was returned to the mental hospital. Baird had the prescient insight that his illness was caused by a chemical imbalance, a conjecture made a few years before the discovery of lithium treatment for manic depression. However, for Baird and others in the 1940s, there were only straitjackets, solitary confinement, insulin, electric shocks and, ultimately, lobotomy. Baird fought his treatments, opening restraining knots with his toes, fighting orderlies and physically destroying his cell. Eventually, he went home, but his increasing paranoia and delusions persuaded his family to permit a lobotomy. He died in 1959, drowning in a bathtub following a convulsion. Gratifyingly, his daughter’s synopsis of Baird’s writing published in a psychiatric journal included a reference to her father’s early paper on a biochemical cause of manic-depression. It served as recognition at last, she writes, if only as a footnote.

For Mimi Baird, the book serves as closure; for general readers, it’s a sobering account of how little we knew and how much we still have to learn about mental illness—especially how not to treat it.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0804137478

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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