Reviews: e-books and audiobooks - on Paris, Scientology, and neurosurgery
Former Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar editor Kate Betts’ book will appeal to fashion journalists longing for a stint in Paris. But others considering a move to France will also find it interesting, although much has changed since the author moved from New York to Paris in 1986. A Princeton graduate, Betts aspired to become a war correspondent but she never made it past Paris because of her love of couture and culture.
Betts’ career took her beyond the French capital on the strength of her fashion writing. In this look back at her seminal years, she tells about her beginnings in publishing and about mastering French. Elsewhere, she falls in and out of love with a Frenchman and ultimately with France. By then she has Karl Lagerfeld’s private telephone number in her Filofax and is interviewing people such as Gianfranco Ferre and Bernard Arnault. Then Anna Wintour calls and it’s time for Betts to go home, to work for American Vogue. My Paris Dream may not be a love letter to the French capital, but Betts uses it to show how much the city means to her.
My Paris Dream by Kate Betts (Random House Audio)
Tom Cruise won't be in the cast if this book is ever made into a movie. About one of Scientology's most famous critics, Paulette Cooper, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely is a drawn-out saga beginning in 1969. It tells how a journalist who wrote a magazine article about the church, which she expanded into a book, resulted in 19 lawsuits against her, as well as allegedly years of intimidation and death threats. Cooper was also apparently the victim of smear campaigns, by the church, including one in the early 1970s when tenants in her block of flats received letters saying, falsely, that she had been caught trying to sexually abuse a two-year-old girl. Tony Ortega's focus is on Cooper - whose code name was apparently Miss Lovely because of her beauty - but towards the end of the book, he tells of others who have investigated the church, and the consequences. Apparently Time magazine spent US$8 million defending itself in a suit, eventually dismissed, over a 1991 cover story. This reader is waiting for a volume on the subject that has different perspectives.
The Unbreakable Miss Lovely by Tony Ortega (Silvertail Books) e-book
Almost every medical memoir sees the protagonist have a professional meltdown. The message is that doctors may strive to achieve detachment from their work, but they are human, and failure plus emotional fallout are sometimes unavoidable. That is also true for Do No Harm, by neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, who shows what can happen when patients go into operating theatres, where the tools that may save their lives are scalpels, drills and suckers (crucial because of the jelly-like consistency of the brain). There's also a form of GPS computer navigation to aid operations but, as Marsh says, neurosurgery is dangerous despite all that and often it's better to let a disease run its course rather than operate. Of course, we are told about the cases in which the latter is true, when Marsh has to excise brain tumours, the focus of his work. Reading about these procedures is not for the faint-hearted, especially when Marsh describes operating, necessarily, with the patient awake. Marsh writes with precision, showing why mistakes can - and do - happen.
Do No Harm by Henry Marsh (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) e-book