“The mind remains, to a tantalizing degree, a realm of secrets and wonder,” writes the author, and so, too, does the world...

THE UNPERSUADABLES

ADVENTURES WITH THE ENEMIES OF SCIENCE

A cerebral ride into the world of the unorthodox.

Sallying forth to take on the benighted creationists, novelist and Esquire contributing editor Storr (The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone, 2014, etc.) takes pause and realizes that his way of thinking is not all that different from what is being presented from the pulpit of the church. Yes, his chosen approach is that of a rationalist, but how biased and compromised is it? What, really, does he know about the nitty-gritty of evolution, unmediated by the fine reasoning of a Darwin or a Dawkins? And where do our beliefs come from? It is unproductive and deluding to simply dismiss a belief as stupid; intelligence does not arbitrate against odd beliefs, for some clearly bright people hold some curious, complex, elusive notions. So Storr ventures with new eyes into their territory, to the outlandish and the heretical, all the while exploring theories of the brain and how it perceives the world. As he notes, each of us is a concoction of sensory pulses that fashions a unique vision: “Cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, the brain’s desire to have the outer, real world match its inner models—it takes us part of the way there,” he writes. “It tells us that a properly functioning brain cannot be trusted to think rationally….” The author presents superb stories of visiting with voice-hearers, smug skeptics, sufferers of the Morgellon itch, Holocaust deniers, recovered-memory confabulators, and he combines these stories with his often humorous personal tale—which included experiencing his own murder through the process of hypnosis. Storr’s piercing narrative is piquant and full of surprises and reversals of circumstance, as well as plenty of undeniably valuable information.

“The mind remains, to a tantalizing degree, a realm of secrets and wonder,” writes the author, and so, too, does the world around us, which he entertainingly scours for the possibility of crucial anomalies.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4683-0818-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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