An enchanting and addictive report shedding much-needed light on a spiritualistic community obfuscated by historical...

WITCHES OF AMERICA

A self-avowed skeptic investigates the shadowy world of modern witchcraft.

In this literary companion to the 2010 documentary American Mystic, which she directed, former Rolling Stone editor Mar dynamically illustrates her adventures journeying across America in search of witches, mystics, and polytheistic pagans. A cynical native New Yorker drawn to fringe communities “whose esoteric beliefs cut them off from the mainstream but also bond them closer together,” the author first traveled to Northern California’s Santa Clara County, where a “Feri priestess” named Morpheus has constructed the Stone City, a sanctuary for congregating covens to perform ritualistic ceremonies. While Mar outlines witchcraft’s history as a movement through the celebrated work of Englishman Gerald Gardner, the “godfather of Wicca,” the core of her book comprises profiles of the many witches she encountered. None of them are as fascinating as Morpheus, whom the author befriended deeply and honestly and who becomes an increasingly formidable influence. Though frequently overwhelmed, Mar’s fascination with the occult suffuses the narrative via in-depth explorations of intensive Feri witch rituals, a weeklong Spirit Gathering in a forest clearing in rural Illinois, participation in the annual pagan PantheaCon conventions, trial-and-error Feri training, and witchcraft circles hosted in a New England castle. The author initially approached craft rituals involving “circling, trancing, banishing personal demons, and bumping up against the dead” with dubiety and great hesitancy, yet once familiarized with her surroundings, she was enveloped in the wonder and the enlightenment each group imparted. A wide-eyed observer governed by an unshakable curiosity, Mar’s immersion in the multifaceted world of witchcraft (including a particularly chilling encounter with a necromancer) collectively broadened and enhanced her perspective about the craft itself—and will surely do the same for her readership.

An enchanting and addictive report shedding much-needed light on a spiritualistic community obfuscated by historical misinterpretation and pop-culture derision.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-29137-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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