An entertaining, cynical critique of cynicism, mostly worth reading for its comedy and brevity.

Cynicism

THE NEW RULES OF ECONOMICS

A brief indictment of what debut author and illustrator Stevenson sees as the global economy’s endemic corruption.

Judging by the current U.S. election season, we’re living in an age of extraordinary discontent, especially regarding the state of the economy. Populist outrage isn’t merely the consequence of economic stagnation or a deficit of opportunity, but also due to an increasingly widespread perception that the system is fatally rigged to benefit a few at the expense of the many. Stevenson offers a tutorial on the history of evolving crookedness from the perspective of “a ranking member of the cynical elite,” essentially confessing to his own complicity in producing inequitability. The confessor divides economic history into four periods: feudalism, mercantilism, capitalism, and cynicism. In the first stage, he says, regnant kings composed the rules without any other aim than the satisfaction of their own interests. However, this enraged the business community, which eventually revolted and rewrote the rules in order to benefit themselves; this period Stevenson calls mercantilism. The success of mercantilism and the expansion of key markets, he says, led to capitalism, featuring rules written to provide crucial advantages to private enterprise. However, even though this system, at least in its original incarnation, ended up producing a more expansive roster of winners, many were still disenfranchised, Stevenson notes. Out of capitalism, he continues, comes the current age, cynicism, in which a surfeit of capital and the fear of dimming prospects inspired the robber barons of business to rewrite the rules yet again. Much of the book is devoted to candidly explaining these new rules, which amount to various kinds of mountebankery, rhetorical manipulation, and exploitation. The whole work also features cartoonish, consistently hilarious illustrations. The book is dotted with cheeky, wryly delivered advice, sure to please readers whether they share the author’s cynicism or not: “Remember kid, if you borrow enough money it’s the lender that has the problem.” However, this short, unremittingly (and admittedly) pessimistic book provides nothing new or particularly rigorous for readers interested in understanding our current economic doldrums; it’s more a complaint than a lesson. It’s a very funny complaint, delivered with style, but one without nuance or disciplined scrupulousness.

An entertaining, cynical critique of cynicism, mostly worth reading for its comedy and brevity.

Pub Date: April 25, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2016

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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 author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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