THE LEFT HAND OF GOD

A BIOGRAPHY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Holl, chaplain of and a theology lecturer at the University of Vienna, was suspended from teaching in the Catholic Church for some of his heterodox notions, but this book is a mellifluous testimony of faith from start to finish. Holl captures the contradictions inherent in the personage of the Holy Spirit, who is described one moment as a pacific, “still small voice” and the next as a tongue of fire. He takes as his canvas the history of Western religion and philosophy (though his attention to Judaism and Islam, which he examines as manifestations of the Holy Spirit, suffers when compared with his easy familiarity with Christianity). Holl is also conscious of the Holy Spirit’s role as a political subversive—the oppressed can tap into the Spirit’s immediate authority, which transcends all earthly control. The book is arranged somewhat chronologically, beginning with a quick look at the Old Testament, followed by New Testament events like the unexpected descent of the Holy Spirit onto Jesus and the gift of tongues on the Day of Pentecost. (Holl pairs this latter incident with an account of the Pentecostal movement in the US in the early 20th century; he does history a real service by crediting the movement’s founding to its true leader, the African-American preacher William Seymour, rather than to the white pastor who has traditionally gotten top billing.) Holl continues the story of the Holy Spirit’s workings through the rise of Islam, as well as the monastic movement and various “heretical” groups in Christianity. The last third of the book explores the Spirit’s entanglements with some great modern thinkers, including James Joyce, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone Weil, and Sigmund Freud. This section is, of course, less overtly “religious” than what precedes it, but its implicit message seems to be that the Spirit is at work even in a modern society where philosophers have found it irrelevant. A provocative read, gracefully translated from the German.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-49284-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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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 MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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