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Sage advice on finding beauty and happiness in life despite bad circumstances.

Honest, witty essays on the hidden blessings in life.

Lamott (Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Prayer, 2013, etc.) examines moments in her life when she has confronted her personal suffering and pain, drawn on her faith, and found compassion, kindness and the ability to forgive despite the odds against her. Many of the people who feature in these short narratives were dying from cancer, yet the author was able to extract quiet moments of joy from each relationship, and she gracefully imparts that feeling to readers. She delves into the complex bonds she had with her parents, who never made her feel welcome and implied that she did not turn into the child that they were expecting. Nonetheless, with the aid of her Christian faith, Lamott was able to find forgiveness. The author also discusses her alcoholism and the men and women who helped her find sobriety, her relationship with her son and her on-again/off-again bond with her brother. In each essay, Lamott makes evident the fleeting nature of life, noting how our time is finite and that if one searches hard enough, one can make the most of each circumstance—good, bad or ugly. Whether attending a service where the ashes of the departed stuck to her fingers as she attempted to throw them overboard, hiking the trails of Muir Woods with a woman who knew she was dying (“The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends”), or demonstrating against the wars started by George W. Bush in a peace march through the streets of San Francisco, Lamott confronts each situation with humor and rectitude and shows readers how she found something redeeming in each one.

Sage advice on finding beauty and happiness in life despite bad circumstances.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1594486296

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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 19, 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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