Revisionist history, albeit inconclusive, that’s interesting, well-made, and should attract much attention.

THE QUEST FOR THE TRUE CROSS

An examination, sure to provoke controversy, of Christianity’s most powerful symbol.

Does wood from the cross on which Christ was crucified exist in the world today? Many parishioners of Rome’s Santa Croce in Gerusalemme church would say yes. In its recesses, write Swiss papyrologist Thiede and English journalist d’Ancona (Eyewitness to Jesus, 1996), is housed a 25.3-by-14-centimeter section of the titulus, or headboard, that, three of the four Gospels aver, bore mocking words in three languages stating “This is the king of the Jews.” Examining the board without the benefit of dendrochronological and palynological tests, which they urge be undertaken, and arguing instead from linguistic and scriptural evidence, Thiede and d’Ancona assert their belief that the Santa Croce titulus dates from the time of Christ even though other scholars have held it to be a forgery. Their argument, they acknowledge, is in no way definitive, but it at least restores the fragment of wood “to its rightful place in the spectrum of historical probability”—a worthy enough goal given the importance that Christian scholarship places on history and chronology. Of more interest to general readers of biblical and religious history is the authors’ survey of the legend of the cross, bits and pieces of which were traded and fought over even in antiquity, and much of which, it is said, disappeared when the Frankish army that carried the cross as a talisman lost it in battle against the Sultan Saladin. Traditional scholarship holds that the cross itself became a symbol of Christianity only after the Roman emperor Constantine adopted it as his standard, but Thiede and d’Ancona counter, convincingly, that this view is based on questionable evidence and that Constantine (and his mother Helena) simply rediscovered a symbol already widely used by early Christians.

Revisionist history, albeit inconclusive, that’s interesting, well-made, and should attract much attention.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-29424-7

Page Count: 205

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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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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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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