JESUS

A LIFE

The prolific novelist (Daughters of Albion, 1991, etc.) and biographer (C.S. Lewis, 1990, etc.) turns his attention to the historical Jesus, a biographical subject out of fashion among contemporary theologians. The result is a surprisingly dispassionate, respectfully skeptical study that makes the best biblical scholarship accessible to general readers. At once cautious and speculative, Wilson's book is not a biography in any modern sense of the term, since there is little we know about Jesus outside of the Gospels. And the Gospels are, of course, narratives ``of a high imaginative order'' that have to be read critically with their historical intentions in mind. Following recent Christologists, Wilson restores the figure of Jesus to his Jewish roots, and views him as a Galilean hasid, or holy man, who preached his message of love and forgiveness to his fellow Jews. After his death, three fairly distinct strands of Christianity developed: the Temple-based, Jewish followers of Jesus in Jerusalem; the anti-institutional, anti-ritualistic celebration of faith embodied in the Gospel of John; and the Christian religion as conceived by Paul and developed both in his many epistles and in the Synoptic Gospels, which were written, most likely, under his influence. This last strain, addressed to Gentiles more than Jews, came to dominate Western ways of worshipping Jesus for centuries. Synthesizing textual and archaeological evidence with plain common sense, Wilson rejects any effort to systematize Jesus, offering an abundance of contradictions and inconsistencies. But this doesn't stop him from admiring the radicalism of what he sees as Jesus' fundamental massage—that God loves and forgives sinners—a dangerous notion for a historical people dedicated to formal worship and good works. Finally, though, in Wilson's view, it's Jesus' very inexactness that explains his abiding transcendent appeal. A formidable challenge to believers in Jesus' divinity, Wilson's eminently readable book also serves as an excellent introduction to the New Testament.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1992

ISBN: 0-393-03087-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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