Gory surgeries, grisly autopsies, baffling ailments and the JFK assassination enliven these entertaining if sometimes icky medical memoirs.

McConnell is a professor of pathology who admits he dislikes doing autopsies, and as we read his slice-by-slice replays—“When I cut into her abdomen and an odious rush of feces spilled from the incision”—we can’t really blame him. His 50-year career landed him in plenty of scrapes outside of the morgue as well. A stint as an Army doc found him jumping out of airplanes, performing a circumcision on an uncooperative paratrooper and standing vigil over the casket of President Kennedy. (An assassination buff ever since, he offers tart commentary on the competence of the military pathologists who autopsied Kennedy and floats an intriguing alternative to the “magic bullet” theory.) There are vacations filled with impromptu consultations; on one Grand Canyon rafting expedition, he treats heat stroke, panic attacks and a bite to the butt by a rattlesnake. In a noir-ish vignette, he testifies in an abortion prosecution before a vaguely corrupt Mississippi courtroom. And there are many scenes of McConnell performing a doctor’s most basic task—struggling to figure out what’s ailing a patient, sometimes in the reflective quiet of the pathology lab, sometimes in the chaos of the emergency room. The author fills the book with absorbing medical procedural that presents medicine as an intellectual puzzle with its share of triumphant deduction and humiliating cluelessness. (One case, resolved only after umpteen lab tests and a home visit that reveals a tell-tale enema bottle, is a diagnostic mystery worthy of a House episode.) This is mainly a collection of vivid shaggy-dog stories, but there’s also an emotional resonance to McConnell’s reminiscences; as he wrestles with his patients’ suffering, he reveals that the physician’s anguish is also inherent in the art of healing. Engrossing in every sense.


Pub Date: July 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-1453845707

Page Count: 199

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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 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...


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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