An unsatisfying biography of a bold team whose influence on cultural mores and women’s sexual emancipation cannot be...

MASTERS OF SEX

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF WILLIAM MASTERS AND VIRGINIA JOHNSON, THE COUPLE WHO TAUGHT AMERICA HOW TO LOVE

Newsday writer Maier (The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings, 2003, etc.) offers a dry look at the research team who unlocked the secrets of America’s bedrooms, ushering in the sexual revolution of the late 1960s.

The authors of Human Sexual Response, the incendiary 1966 primer that inaugurated the field of couples sex therapy, William Masters and Virginia Johnson had been research partners since 1956, when Masters, a doctor specializing in fertility and reproductive dysfunction, hired Johnson as an assistant at Washington University. Johnson, a 31-year-old divorcée with two children, was a college graduate from Missouri with little knowledge of medicine but a good deal of aplomb. Masters, ten years her senior and married with two children, had just gotten the green light to explore the uncharted terrain of human sexuality. Warned that he was committing academic suicide, Masters nonetheless delved into the clinical observation of coupling, masturbation, climaxing and performance anxiety. All the while Johnson was at his side, coaching the testing partners, filming, recording data and remaining admirably uncritical. Over ten years the two cemented their research and, discreetly, their amatory partnership. Though they were forced out of the umbrage of the university, they enjoyed remarkable success in their private practice, unseating psychoanalysis as the preferred mode of healing sexual dysfunction. With the publication of their work, they also became famous and rich, though later books on homosexuality and AIDS tarnished their reputations. Maier tries to get at the kernel of this curious and enduring partnership—they finally married in 1971, divorced in 1992—though Masters in particular remains a hard nut to crack, and the narrative lacks the punch that such a subject should merit.

An unsatisfying biography of a bold team whose influence on cultural mores and women’s sexual emancipation cannot be underestimated.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-465-00307-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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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