Still, though Marcus may not always bring history to life, she offers a compelling glimpse into an undeniably fascinating...



Wall Street Journal Foreign correspondent Marcus offers a dry but ultimately fascinating look at how modern archaeologists and their recent discoveries at key biblical sites are reshaping traditional views of the Bible, as well as the entire map of the Middle East.

Over the years archaeologists have studied biblical texts, historical finds, and ancient records recovered at sites throughout the Middle East, and on this basis they have created an accepted structure of Israel’s history. But recently, exciting new discoveries at sites such as Meggido, Jerusalem, and Hazor have led scholars to question the very foundations of these long-held beliefs. Scientific advances in the past 50 years have refocused archaeological surveys away from biblical historicity to a more general investigation of the culture of the entire Middle East, and have brought astonishing new theories to light. For example, the origin of food prohibitions through the study of pig remains has now led to the belief that the Jewish dietary laws were not unique within the cultures of the Middle East: in fact, virtually no one in the region was eating pork during the biblical period. Another theory currently contested is that Israelite slaves built the pyramids—rather than skilled craftsmen and seasonal laborers, as many archaeologists now believe. Marcus’s careful research and extensive interviews provide an excellent base for the exploration of these theories, but she often assumes the reader’s familiarity with biblical narrative and history. And, although a historical timeline is provided at the beginning of the book, those who may have forgotten who begat whom will find moments when the text becomes confusing, dense, and lifeless.

Still, though Marcus may not always bring history to life, she offers a compelling glimpse into an undeniably fascinating topic. (Map of ancient Israel and its environs, not seen) (Reader’s Subscription Book Club/Natural Science Book Club alternate selection)

Pub Date: April 14, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-56167-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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 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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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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