Absorbing, insightful reflections on being human.



A sensitive examination of the meaning of disability.

When he was 3 years old, award-winning Norwegian writer Grue was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative disease that compromised his ability to walk and, doctors predicted, would worsen over time. In a frank and often moving memoir, the author reflects on disability, identity, and difference, drawing on philosophy, sociology, literature, and art: Erving Goffman on the concept of stigma, for example; Joan Didion on grief; Michel Foucault on the clinical gaze. Now a professor, writer, former Fulbright scholar, husband, and father, Grue celebrates considerable accomplishments. “I am writing about all that I wanted to have,” he notes, “and how I got it.” His parents, both academics, were determined to help him flourish. Their negotiations with the Norwegian Social Services system, however, could be frustrating: “My parents request something, their request is denied, they appeal the denial, they win. This process takes them several months, or years.” Nevertheless, the system provided him with benefits such as physical therapy and medical treatments as well as a powered wheelchair that afforded him access to the world, enabling travel to Russia, Amsterdam, Denmark, and the University of California, Berkeley, for his Fulbright. “I am privileged and vulnerable,” he admits: privileged because Norway supports its citizens’ well-being; vulnerable to people’s attitudes about disability as well as to physical obstacles. Grue recalls his loneliness at feeling like “a body that no one, least of all one’s self, wishes to know.” Who would he have been, he has wondered, if he didn’t have a muscular disease? Refreshingly, the author reflects less on his “unlived life” than on the life he lives: The physical deterioration that he anticipated never happened; he found love and companionship; and, he reflects, “at some point or another I stopped thinking about myself as someone who needed repairing.”

Absorbing, insightful reflections on being human.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60078-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?