APOCALYPSE PRETTY SOON

TRAVELS IN END-TIME AMERICA

New York Times Magazine journalist Heard uncovers some truly memorable manifestations of millennial fervor in this quasi-ethnography. There’s the Pentecostal Mississippi dairy farmer who believes that his all-red heifer is a sign that a new temple will be established in Jerusalem, ushering in the endtime; there is also the Israeli rabbi who, with similar millennial expectations, traveled to America to check out the “apocalypse cow.” There are the radical “Gaiaists” who claim that Mother Nature has grown tired of humanity’s abuses and is about to unleash a series of cataclysms to kick us off the planet; these followers plan to be the only ones prepared to survive earth’s attack. Heard calls these well-meaning survivalists “Swiss Family Robinson with a Rambo complex.” Then there are the UFO “contactee” groups, including the southern California—based (where else?) Unarians, who await the 2001 arrival of the “tall, wise, and kindly Space Brothers,” benevolent beings sent to assist earthlings on the road to enlightenment. If there’s a surprising thread among these groups, it’s that most of them are looking forward to the apocalypse. Not all are prophets of doom; many are just ordinary folks who expect to greet the coming age with great joy. Heard does a fine job of outlining some of the paradoxes of their widely variant forms of prophecy belief. His writing is as crisp and snappy as the book’s title, though a few of his assertions aren—t fully supported by his research. (Some facts also need checking, such as his claim that “hundreds” died in the Oklahoma City blast.) Heard comes down rather unsympathetically on many of his interviewees, repeatedly utilizing pejorative and uninformative words like “hoodoo” to describe their millennial beliefs. Still, on balance, he gives their social grievances an eloquent airing. Overall, a humorous and well-written attempt to understand our ongoing fascination with the apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-393-04689-3

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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