More than a revealing picture of FDR’s polio treatment center in the years just before the arrival of vaccines that ended a...

WARM SPRINGS

TRACES OF A CHILDHOOD AT FDR’S POLIO HAVEN

Memoir of life at Roosevelt’s Warm Springs polio center, where the author stayed between the ages of 11 and 13.

Novelist Shreve (A Student of Living Things, 2006, etc.) draws on an unpublished novel, written when she was 18, to refresh her memory of life at that time. Her initial stay was from August to December 1950, with a second and longer stay from June 1951 to April 1952. During both stays, surgery is performed on her right leg and she undergoes months of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation for her is not simply a physical act; she believes that at Warm Springs she will transform herself from a bad girl who had caused her family trouble into a virtual angel of God. Less severely handicapped than most of the other children—her roommate is in a body cast—the lonely young Shreve is embarrassed by her relative wholeness and feels very much the outsider. She tries to fill her days with catechism lessons from a friendly priest, reading books and becoming a sort of caretaker, visiting the babies’ ward every day, delivering mail and carrying bedpans. She writes falsely cheery letters to her mother, to which her mother offers upbeat replies, neither one acknowledging true feelings and the reality of the situation. Her special friend is a half-paralyzed boy, Joey, who dreams of becoming an athlete and whom Shreve recklessly leads into a terrible accident, the story of which begins and ends this memoir. Having tried to become the epitome of goodness, she commits a reckless act that confirms her badness and swiftly brings about her departure, if not expulsion, from Warm Springs.

More than a revealing picture of FDR’s polio treatment center in the years just before the arrival of vaccines that ended a frightening, crippling disease, this is a moving portrait of a girl on the cusp of adolescence dealing with pain, guilt and loneliness.

Pub Date: June 7, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-65853-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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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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