Because the author blasts George W. Bush and others who, in her view, wish to introduce more religion into government,...

READ REVIEW

MORAL MINORITY

OUR SKEPTICAL FOUNDING FATHERS

As men of the Enlightenment, the Founding Fathers were not conventionally religious; they did not want the United States to be a “Christian nation.”

Allen, a journalist and literary critic (Artistic License: Three Centuries of Good Writing and Bad Behavior, 2004), has academic credentials (Ph.D., Columbia Univ.) and employs them vigorously in her analysis of the religious experiences and beliefs of six American icons: Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not one of them, she argues, was a devout Christian, and Franklin and Jefferson, in fact, were agnostic. All of them struggled to keep religion out of public discourse and to prevent religious beliefs from becoming a qualification for public service. (She notes that no national politician today would dare declare himself or herself anything other than a pious Christian or, in a few cases, Jew.) Allen offers a counter to Michael Novak and Jana Novak’s Washington’s God (Mar. 2006), which argues that Washington, though publicly reticent about religion, was privately pious. No way, she says. She notes that the framers of the Constitution included no references to God or Jesus in that document. Allen chides Hamilton for being the first to encourage candidates to play upon the religious biases of voters. Her penultimate chapter deals with religion in American since 1787, and she ends with a primer in 18th-century history. In it, Allen explains latitudinarianism, Unitarianism and Deism and provides snapshots of the intellectual founding fathers of the Enlightenment—Locke, Hume, Adam Smith, et al. She worries today about a retreat from Reason. Allen’s style can be off-putting. She elected to use the Fathers’ own words to buttress the walls of her argument, but she quotes so often—and at such length—that her voice sometimes disappears; lithic chunks of others’ prose impede the pleasant flow of her style.

Because the author blasts George W. Bush and others who, in her view, wish to introduce more religion into government, Allen’s work—substantial and scholarly as it is—will appeal principally to those with more moderate or liberal religious and political views.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2006

ISBN: 1-56663-675-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more