Nonbelievers won’t budge—and intrigued readers are better off requesting a transcript of the 20/20 feature that inspired...

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SILENT SOUL

THE MIRACLES AND MYSTERIES OF AUDREY SANTO

A maudlin exploration of the paranormal events that surround Audrey Santo, a comatose 16-year-old from Worcester, Massachusetts, whom many consider to be a saint.

Promoting the notion that Audrey is Christ’s liaison, Felix (What Makes the Grand Canyon?, 1998, etc.) draws on press reports, television features, and interviews to chronicle her subject’s life. After Audrey’s close brush with death (from drowning) in 1987 left her dependent on life-support, her devout Catholic mother, Linda, took her on a pilgrimage to a Croatian village (in what was then still called Yugoslavia) where a group of children were reputed to be receiving apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Linda claims that during their pilgrimage the still-unconscious Audrey communicated with the Virgin Mary and volunteered to become a “victim soul”—a pious Christian who willingly takes on the pain of others in imitation of Christ. After their homecoming, Linda’s testimony was supported by a series of seemingly supernatural occurrences that took place in Audrey’s bedroom: for example, religious artifacts began to move, bleed, and leak oil. Audrey also developed stigmata—mysterious sores that resembled the crucifixion wounds of Christ. Convinced that Audrey was engaged in a silent conversation with Jesus, the family transformed their garage into a chapel and invited pilgrims to use the site as a place to pray for miracles. Although the Catholic Church has yet to conclude its investigation (and despite the fact that the Croatian visionaries have been condemned as frauds by their local bishop), Felix maintains that Linda’s assertions are truthful. She subtly discredits interviewees who question Audrey’s authenticity and portrays the Santos as living martyrs. Her overblown enthusiasm for her subject strips her reportage of credibility, however, and she fails to deliver concrete evidence, leaving us to wonder if Audrey is an ill-fated child who is being exploited. And although the material lends itself to high drama, intrigue, and intelligent speculation, the author’s vapid narration renders even the phenomena of bleeding paintings dull.

Nonbelievers won’t budge—and intrigued readers are better off requesting a transcript of the 20/20 feature that inspired Felix to write this bland and credulous account.

Pub Date: April 20, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-27216-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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