An informative and occasionally enlightening survey of American messianic movements, but it will likely have limited appeal...

AMERICAN MESSIAHS

FALSE PROPHETS OF A DAMNED NATION

A detailed account of messianic movements in America.

On Nov. 18, 1978, more than 900 people died at Jonestown, Guyana, a remote settlement of the Peoples Temple cult led by self-styled messiah Jim Jones. This mass murder-suicide, the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until 9/11, serves as a gruesome denouement in this new study, in which independent scholar Morris analyzes a largely forgotten chapter in American history. From Jones to Mother Ann Lee to “Walla Walla Jesus,” charismatic would-be prophets have established quasi-communist settlements as correctives to the racism, misogyny, rampant individualism, and capitalist greed they believed have characterized American society. To further foster this defiance of mainstream America, most of the communities also shared an aversion to the nuclear family, with celibacy frequently promoted “as a rejection of marriage, childbearing, and traditional kinship structures.” Morris is at his best when he discusses the man who arguably embodied these tenets more than anyone else: Father Divine (c. 1876-1965), a black spiritual leader and civil rights advocate. Father Divine was an important and influential figure in his day, yet his controversial views on family—followers were expected to change their names and leave behind wives, husbands, and children once they joined his movement—ensured his virtual erasure from the nation’s collective memory. Unfortunately, the rest of the chapters are somewhat dry, scholarly, and jargon-laden. Moreover, the brevity of many of the chapters impedes the narrative flow, and the brief epilogue would benefit from more information on post-Jonestown cults (David Koresh and the Branch Davidians receive only one paragraph). Ultimately, the book should serve as a useful reference for students of messianic movements and the history of American religion in general, but nonscholarly readers may lose interest at some point in the narrative.

An informative and occasionally enlightening survey of American messianic movements, but it will likely have limited appeal among general readers.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-213-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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 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

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...

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

Did you like this book?

more