Bawer wants to rouse liberal America from its lazy indifference to the rising tide of Christian fundamentalism. A literary and cultural critic, Bawer has written on spirituality in modern fiction (The Aspect of Eternity, 1993) and normality in the lives of gay men and lesbians (A Place at the Table, 1993). Now he turns his critical sights on the history, reigning personalities, and ominous future prospects of Christian fundamentalism in America. Bawer traces fundamentalism back to the 19th-century English theologian John Nelson Darby, who first articulated the doctrine of dispensational premillennialism—a periodization of sacred history that will culminate in a thousand-year reign of Christ—and to C.I. Scofield, who incorporated Darby's ideas as commentary in his Scofield Reference Bible. Bawer goes on to critique Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Hal Lindsey, James Dobson, and Bill McCartney (head of the much- publicized Promise Keepers). He subsumes these men under the larger rubric of a wrathful ``Church of Law,'' which he contrasts with the more truly Christian ``Church of Love,'' best represented by the late Harry Emerson Fosdick, famed liberal preacher at Riverside Church in New York City. That the most distinguished American representative of the Church of Love is dead is just Bawer's point: Nonlegalistic Christians must find their voice again before the legalistic ones steal Jesus away. But with his love/law dichotomy, Bawer succumbs to the very type of black-and-white thinking he decries in fundamentalists. The dichotomy is especially unfortunate in that it both perpetuates an ancient Christian prejudice against law that has often spent itself on Judaism and Hebrew scripture, and distorts religious experience, which some scholars have understood to include both loving and wrathful dimensions. Bawer lightens his critique with stretches of autobiographical narration, but the overriding (and unrepentant) tone of fulmination lends his book the feel of a sermon that has gone on too long.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-517-70682-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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 20, 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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