Scientific triumph by a medical hero, described with admiration and lucidity. (Photos, not seen)

SPLENDID SOLUTION

JONAS SALK AND THE CONQUEST OF POLIO

A mighty medical event occurred half a century ago, when the curse of polio—of youthful paralysis and suffocating death—was conquered. It was then that the vaccine developed by Dr. Salk was pronounced safe and effective and mass inoculations began.

There was Jenner in the 18th century, Pasteur in the 19th. Add, for the 20th, Jonas Salk (1914–95). Time writer Kluger (Moon Hunters, 1999) tells the story of the able and ambitious young researcher who launched his battle against the awful illness back when Franklin Roosevelt, most prominent among the disease’s many victims, sponsored the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now the March of Dimes) under the direction of his law partner, Basil O’Connor. O’Connor’s name, the palliative treatments of Sister Kenny, or the fearsome contraption, the Iron Lung, may now be largely forgotten—thanks to the efforts of scientists like Salk, who was happily diverted from law or rabbinical studies to City College and NYU Medical School, and then, during WWII, to research on a flu vaccine. Kluger tells the stories of individual victims of polio. He notes the political infighting and describes the establishment of the Pittsburgh lab. He salutes the sacrificial monkeys and mice and recognizes the painstaking task of isolating strains and types of the disease. The science is made accessible, though sometimes it’s freely dramatized, as, for example, in the personification of little pathogens. Salk’s investigations were devoted to the use of killed virus, to be administered by needle. Albert Sabin, depicted as his everlasting nemesis, promoted the use of live virus, given by sugar cube. (Only recently was the Sabin method fully phased out.) Among the first vaccinated: Salk’s lab colleagues, his family, and himself. While Kluger does recall the excitement of the announcement 50 years ago, he scants the inventor’s life story thereafter. Still, in this unabashedly laudatory history, the story of the achievement is a terrific one.

Scientific triumph by a medical hero, described with admiration and lucidity. (Photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15216-4

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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