Philosophy, religion and love infuse this thoughtful set of observations.

Birth, Breath, and Death


The author—a doula, hospital chaplain and new mother—reflects on birth, death and everything in between.

Glenn refers to her debut as a set of meditations, but it’s also a memoir. She begins by guiding the reader through her Mormon childhood in Utah, her eventual rejection of the Mormon Church, her intellectual embrace of comparative religion and philosophy and her discovery of Unitarian Universalism. Glenn became a doula after serving as her sister’s birth partner and later decided to become a hospital chaplain at a New Jersey hospital “to experience the bookend of doula work.” Journaling and other “healing modalities”—along with the love of her husband, Clark—allowed her to open her “tentative heart” and become a mother. The love she discovered for her young son led her to stop her later career as a high school philosophy teacher, which had taken her from a private school in New Jersey all the way to Bogotá, Colombia. For Glenn, it was “impossible to imagine that anyone else should spend the day caring, nursing, and loving my baby boy.” Glenn’s experiences have clearly given her deep insight into how to comfort people entering, and leaving, this world. She notes that even hospital chaplains sometimes shy away from engaging with patients in pain: “one’s own religious tradition can be used as an emotional shield in this regard.” The author incorporates quotations from philosophers, religious figures and others into her meditations; for example, she quotes statistics from the World Health Organization about cesarean section rates as she describes her own long, painful labor. Sometimes, however, the sheer volume of quotations threatens to overwhelm Glenn’s ideas; at one point, she quotes a journalist, a Zen master, a psychology professor and a philosopher, all on a single page.

Philosophy, religion and love infuse this thoughtful set of observations.

Pub Date: March 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482079821

Page Count: 114

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2013

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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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