THE THINGS THAT NEED DOING

A MEMOIR

A son’s memoir about caring for his ill mother during the last year of her life.

Manning (editor: Top of the Order: 25 Writers Pick Their Favorite Baseball Player of All Time, 2010, etc.) unsparingly recounts what happened when his mother, Susan, was hospitalized with cardiac issues complicated by lung cancer and gastroparesis (stomach paralysis). Susan was a single parent and nurse whose kindness, courage and determination inspired everyone who knew her. Heart problems ran in her family, but the heart attack she suffered at 58 caught everyone, including her son, off guard. The book centers on Susan’s life at the three Cleveland medical facilities that became her home for one year. As her health declined, Manning became the parent looking after a mother rendered vulnerable and helpless by her condition. With admirable objectivity and restraint, the author writes about the people, procedures, machines and medications that worked—sometimes at cross purposes—to keep Susan alive. The book is not just a portrait of a woman with a ferocious will to live, but of the American health-care system and how it treats illness and death. Manning punctuates the main narrative with stories about his family, his own life as a writer and caterer in New York and the Cleveland sports teams—the Cavaliers, Indians and Browns—that helped him “differentiate one day from the next.” Moments of levity are few, however, and the story moves unrelentingly toward its inevitable—but for Susan, merciful—conclusion. The intimate details about his mother’s physical struggles and the emotional stresses and strains he and his family suffered occasionally make the book read like a private journal. Paraphrasing a line from Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier, Manning admits that he wrote the story “more to get it out my head than for posterity” and as a way “to acknowledge how messy this shit gets.” Nonetheless, the author’s candor and genuine emotion shine through.

Honest and gut-wrenching.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-46324-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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