A dark, distressful, and deeply felt memoir of life with father—and its aftershocks—by National Book Award–winner Nuland (How We Die, 1994, etc.).

Meyer Nudelman, a Jewish immigrant from the Pale, was, to put it mildly, a difficult man: moody with an explosive temper, an outlander in his own home, full of brittle pride. His accent and physical disabilities mortified young Sherwin, while his rages smote the boy to the soul; in one memorable explosion, Nuland (Surgery/Yale School of Medicine) sees that his father, so degraded by the miserable toil of his daily life, must in turn degrade his own son with a flurry of verbal abuse. Yet the Nudelmans’ stormy apartment also provided shelter, and Meyer’s weakness was his power. Impressively evocative of life in the Jewish East Bronx during the 1940s, the story hinges on Sherwin’s move to break away from his father’s smothering emotional grasp by attending medical school at Yale. But anguishing episodes of profound melancholia (like grotesque fogs with the “muffled mocking tones of a vengeful enemy”) roil his life so severely that Nuland is slated for a lobotomy while a clinical resident at Yale and barely escapes the knife. The subsequent revelation that his father is suffering from the fallout of untreated syphilis is not enough to erase his feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, his fixations and the guilt, “the din and deluge of that rampaging stampede of obsessional ideations” that resulted in Nuland’s hospitalization. Lost in America probes the effect Meyer had on his life in the hope that by understanding his father Nuland might thereby understand a part of himself that has begged comprehension. The “journey” ends with a measure of balance: the author finds his own life by finding a way into and out of his father’s—and if it took 70 years to achieve, the time seems short for the amount of work involved.

Charring and eloquent.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-41294-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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

Did you like this book?

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


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

Did you like this book?