A powerful picture of anorexia and binge-eating disorder that would benefit from being shorter and more targeted.

EMPTY

A MEMOIR

A debut memoir painstakingly re-creates a history of disordered eating.

As a young woman, This American Life editor Burton alternated between anorexia (“the world responds to thinness, and the girl subsists on its compliments”) and binge-eating disorder. She convincingly traces her body issues back several generations: As a nonagenarian on her deathbed, her grandmother wished that she could weigh herself. Burton is also haunted by her mother’s self-assessment: “I knew nobody would ever love me for my body. They would have to love me for my mind.” The author’s extremely finicky childhood eating was a sign that she “perceived food as a threat.” A traumatic upbringing—her parents’ divorce, a move from Michigan to Colorado, her mother’s alcoholism—meant she couldn’t be like the carefree teens she saw in Seventeen. Not eating, she writes, gave a pleasurable “feeling of less inside—light, relieved, unburdened.” But in November 1989, “the weekend I lost power,” she started binge-eating. Burton recounts how she would gorge herself on carbs and sweets until her belly was distended. By the time she was a freshman in college, she’d gained 50% of her body weight. The author has been a vigilant personal archivist and chooses pertinent anecdotes to exemplify her mental and physical states. For instance, after eating most of a pan of brownies, she lost control of her bowels while out running: “a moment of total abasement.” However, the surfeit of information on her high school years—friends, acting, a summer job, boyfriends, and so on—distracts from the bigger picture. The level of detail is evidence of Burton’s original aim of writing a history of teenage girlhood. While the book is a valuable addition to the literature on eating disorders—which Burton likens to heroin in their addictiveness—the focus slips, making the middle third a slog.

A powerful picture of anorexia and binge-eating disorder that would benefit from being shorter and more targeted.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9284-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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