An exquisitely rendered voyage into the “shapelessness of a life without sleep, where days merge unbounded.”

THE SHAPELESS UNEASE

A YEAR OF NOT SLEEPING

Sleeplessness gets the Susan Sontag illness-as-metaphor treatment in this pensive, compact, lyrical inquiry into the author’s nighttime demons.

In her attempt to make sense of why she can’t sleep, Betty Trask Award–winning novelist Harvey meditates, often poetically, on a wide range of topics. Her sleep issues began in the summer of 2016. A few months later, the author had self-diagnosed “possible chronic Post Brexit Insomnia” along with the “existence of persistent panic.” She began suffering three or four nights per week of no sleep. She tried everything: sleeping aids, prescription drugs, visits to a CBT sleep clinic, acupuncture, “learning French, making mosaics, playing solitaire, doing jigsaws,” watching episodes of Poldark and The Crown, and listening to “an audio edition of Remembrance of Things Past.” Eventually, Harvey began to feel “increasingly feral, like a wild animal enduring a cage.” She stopped writing and was teaching on zero hours of sleep, and her thoughts fragmented further, a process that she captures with vivid clarity, darkly tinged yet unblurred. The author thought about writing a story about a man who, while robbing a cash machine, loses his wedding ring. It unfurls in sections, floating along in the darkness like quiet waves. “Is the story going anywhere?” Harvey asks herself. Also, is insomnia caused by fear or anxiety? “Anxiety, my hypnotherapist says; you are safe in your bed yet your heart is racing as if a tiger is present. You must learn to see that there is no tiger,” she writes. “But there is a tiger: sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation isn’t a perceived threat but a real one, like thirst or starvation.” Finally, “one day when you’re done with it, it will lose its footing and fall away, and you’ll drop each night into sleep without knowing how you once found it impossible.” Though the narrative is a highly personal interior monologue, others who have suffered insomnia will find abundant resonance.

An exquisitely rendered voyage into the “shapelessness of a life without sleep, where days merge unbounded.”

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4882-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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