Entertaining, sometimes-insightful political philippics, although they lack timeliness and depth.

PENNY RANTS

NOTES OF A SANCTIMONIOUS PURIST, 2005-2012

An assemblage of spirited opinions from a political blog.

Mento offers a collection of posts that he previously published from 2005 to 2012 on Thieves in the Temple, a “political action weblog.” They cover a broad range of topics, including the Iraq War, the failings of the media, the 2008 housing crisis, and environmental protection. Each entry is just a single paragraph in length and focuses only on one issue, resulting in a litany of quick-witted reactions rather than lengthy disquisitions. The author unabashedly identifies himself as a purveyor of liberal values—both on practical and moral grounds—but he directs his criticisms at both sides of the aisle, as he’s more committed to a thoughtful liberalism than to any particular party. For example, there’s no shortage of scathing judgments of Barack Obama’s policies, both as a senator and as president. And although Mento generally avoids grand philosophical issues, he permeates the book with discussion of what the essences of liberalism and conservatism really are. Some of the most intellectually engaging discussions revolve around the definition of an authentically conservative creed; for example, he argues that a true conservative would embrace economic protectionism rather than internationally free markets: “And wouldn’t a real conservative think of a ‘global economy’ as a near-synonym for ‘foreign entanglements?’ ” Mento writes with acerbic flair and has a talent for distilling complex issues into quickly digestible parts. Also, he combines the comic with the serious seamlessly—just about every post is studded with sarcastic irony. However, there are limitations that are inherent to the book’s format: one-paragraph discussions are rarely deep and have a tendency to devolve into platitudes. Further, because Mento’s discussions usually targeted news of the moment, much of the book feels dated. The signature virtue of a blog is its responsiveness to current events, so it seems odd to immortalize such ephemeral reflections in print.

Entertaining, sometimes-insightful political philippics, although they lack timeliness and depth.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Blunt Instruments

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2017

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