A clever and spirited defense, perhaps more energetic than the actual amount of prejudice requires.

PARTY OF ONE

THE LONERS’ MANIFESTO

A witty essay about things best done on your own by admitted loner Rufus.

Editor (presumably in splendid solitude) of the literary quarterly East Bay Express, our Lone Writer finds the conviviality of the wide world one huge pain and would like to not be considered nuts just because solitude and a room of her own speak to her soul. (Her loyal husband agrees.) Rufus discusses with brio the rewards of the sequestered life and the bothers imposed by gregarious outsiders in various sociological contexts. In film, lone heroes like Shane are overtaken by lone killers like Norman Bates. By the way, if popular culture is so popular, what has it to do with an anchorite beyond offering information as what the crowd is up to? Advertising, the ubiquitous power behind pop culture, reveals what everyone else will want, so who wants it? Not the true recluse. Don’t misjudge: loners have real friends, though perhaps not a lot and maybe they don’t visit frequently. And they have sex, too, though perhaps not a lot or frequently. Organized religion is a problem (it’s organized, after all), but the Internet is a stroke of luck. Solo adventure is a cinch, and so is eccentricity. Loners flourish in the creative arts and science. Emily Dickinson and Albert Einstein, Thomas Merton and Greta Garbo are among the many insular folks examined, along with Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and the D.C. snipers (losers misidentified as loners by the media). Sam Spade, Batman (but not Robin), and the author are simply reclusive, preferring independence to society. “Is socializing all that great?” asks Rufus. “Riots are socializing.” Proceeding on the perhaps questionable assumption that loners are universally reviled, she provides a founding manifesto for an organization of self-contained people. (There would, naturally, be no meetings.) Or maybe it’s a book discussion topic for eremitic groups: join the stay-at-home crowd and read it alone.

A clever and spirited defense, perhaps more energetic than the actual amount of prejudice requires.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-56924-513-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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