A lengthy yet fascinating tale of how one scholar was duped, both by a con man and by herself.

VERITAS

A HARVARD PROFESSOR, A CON MAN AND THE GOSPEL OF JESUS'S WIFE

Intriguing religious/true-crime story involving a possible wife of Jesus. News outlets came alive in 2012 when Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King announced the discovery of a papyrus fragment suggesting that Jesus may have had a wife. The fragment, soon dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” stirred interest as well as controversy, as scholars across the world warned it may be a fraud. King, who had obtained the fragment from a mysterious and anonymous collector, doggedly defended the ancient piece of papyrus even as the evidence of its authenticity grew weaker. Journalist Sabar—whose book My Father’s Paradise (2009) won the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography—happened to be following the story from the beginning, and he shares a sometimes-riveting, occasionally odd tale of academia gone awry. Though the author goes to great pains to portray King in a positive, compassionate light, a central reality emerges: The professor’s excitement over the social impact of the fragment blurred her sense of what was historically accurate. After introducing King biographically as a brilliant and respected scholar, “a dazzling interpreter of condemned scripture,” Sabar moves on to the story of how King came across the fragment and decided it was most likely legitimate. Her debut of the fragment at a conference in Rome led to a storm of media attention. Over time, however, other scholars began to see signs of forgery in the way the document had been created, and the media tide turned against King. The sordid source of the fragment—a former student of ancient languages–turned-pornographer—overshadowed King’s hopes that what it represented for women in the church was worth believing in, above the papyrus’ actual authenticity. “Her ideological commitments,” Sabar concludes, “were choreographing her practice of history. The story came first; the dates managed after.” A lengthy yet fascinating tale of how one scholar was duped, both by a con man and by herself.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54258-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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