If the Joads were tanked up on Bud Light and Haldol and Steinbeck were under Hunter S. Thompson’s influence, this might be...

GORILLA AND THE BIRD

A MEMOIR

“I am a bipolar gorilla”: a tale of madness, self-destruction, and the stalwart presence of a family that, while not exactly the Waltons, is always there.

You’ve got to like a book that opens with a Granny who prays the rosary, digs the Stones, and calls the police “pigs,” as in, “Zachariah, look out the window. Is that the pigs?” If Granny is a person not to mess with, Grandpa is a whiskey-soaked philosopher, and Bird—well, that would be Zachariah’s mom, who is the toughest and most reliable of them all, a rock on whom whole cities could be founded. McDermott’s memoir is decidedly offbeat, unfolding like a country song. There’s the law, some good jokes, substance abuse, and love lost and found, but there’s also a keenly felt sense of justice for the people who can’t catch a break in this world, “the dregs, the castoffs, the addicts, and the Uncle Eddies,” the latter a relative who pioneered the author’s path into the mental health system all those years ago. It’s a system that McDermott describes from two vantage points, one as a public defender who represents emotionally disturbed persons and one as someone who has spent time on the other side of the door, committed for clearly valid reasons even as we come to understand that mental health is not likely to be encountered in mental health institutions—or, as he writes, “regaining sanity at a mental hospital is like treating a migraine at a rave.” That makes sense, for who could be healed in a place, as he writes, where the air is a fetid assault, inasmuch as “90 percent of our prescribed medications came with rancid and constant dog farts as side effects”?

If the Joads were tanked up on Bud Light and Haldol and Steinbeck were under Hunter S. Thompson’s influence, this might be the result—rueful, funny, and utterly authentic.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31514-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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