No surprises here—just vintage Watts.



Playful and prophetic dispatches from the intersection of philosophy and spirituality.

Watts (Out of Your Mind: Tricksters, Interdependence, and the Cosmic Game of Hide-and-Seek, 2017, etc.), who died in 1973, loved to startle his readers by exposing their erroneous assumptions about themselves and the world. Nothing in his latest posthumous publication will shock Watts initiates more than his assertion that, “ideally, you only attend one seminar or read just one book and never have to come back to me again. It’s not the best business model, but as far as my livelihood is concerned, there are always more people out there foolish enough to pay attention to me.” With Just So, Watts is closing in on 50 books to his name, most of which cover Zen, Taoism, Vedanta, and Christianity mixed with British and American cultural criticism. That the author is witty and insightful on these themes is why readers return again and again to only slight variations on them. To adapt one of his best-known sayings, “the point of reading Watts is not to learn something from him; the point of reading Watts is to enjoy it.” So his son, Mark, has a solid platform to keep turning out these volumes assembled from archived lectures (the number of posthumous volumes has now surpassed those Watts himself saw through to publication). The challenge for such a project is to get the lecture segments to cohere into something that feels like a book—and hopefully one that offers something that lectures themselves, which are readily available online, do not. On this count, this latest mostly falls short, but the author’s charming style is enough to overcome the book’s structural shortcomings. He’s as good as he ever was on ecology, the self, and what does and does not make for a good life.

No surprises here—just vintage Watts.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68364-294-7

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Sounds True

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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?



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet