THREE QUARTERS, TWO DIMES, AND A NICKEL

A MEMOIR OF BECOMING WHOLE

In these revealing memoirs, reconstructed some 30 years after the accident that changed his life, Fiffer (co-author, with Morris Dees, of Hate on Trial: The Case Against America’s Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi, 1993, etc.) shows what it is like to be different and recounts his long struggle to accept that difference and become whole. In 1967, a wrestling fall fractured a vertebra in the high school senior’s neck, leaving him a helpless quadriplegic. Blessed with a devoted father with both the means and the influence to get him the best care then available, Fiffer also had good luck on his side: contrary to his doctors’ predictions, feeling and control gradually returned to some of his body. After months of physical therapy, he was able to begin his freshman year at Yale in 1968, no longer in a wheelchair but on crutches. Fiffer’s depiction of himself during these years is not especially flattering—he seems as shallow and self-obsessed as your average adolescent. Again, he is fortunate in having people around to set him right: a mother to jolt him out of unnecessary dependence and smart-alecky behavior, a rehab colleague to put his injuries in perspective, a fitness expert to push him past the physical limits he had begun to settle for. A persistent theme is his longing for and fears about sexual love. Happiness in this department is a long time coming, and Fiffer’s tales of one-night stands and unfulfilled affairs are poignant. In telling one reluctant young woman, “You may not be getting a dollar bill, but you’d be getting three quarters, two dimes, and a nickel,” he both recognizes his difference and asserts his wholeness. Happily, he is now married to a fellow writer and editor, a union that has produced books (Family: American Writers Remember Their Own, 1996, etc.) as well as children. A generally satisfying but hardly spellbinding example of the how-I-overcame-my-handicap genre.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85418-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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