A soulful, far-reaching primer on what lies beyond.

BEYOND

HOW HUMANKIND THINKS ABOUT HEAVEN

A broad survey of global and historical views of the post-life spiritual realm.

In this vast overview, writer and therapist Wolff wades deep into the murky waters of heaven, the afterlife, and unseen planes of being. The sweeping narrative—designed for lay readers, some of whom may be overwhelmed by its scope—introduces countless intriguing concepts, from near-death experiences to reincarnation. With eloquent reporting on various cultures and faiths, the author presents her work as “a history of hope” and an examination of “the ongoing collective exercise of the human imagination.” Wolff begins with the prehistoric evidence for belief in what may be termed the afterlife, or at least a world beyond the present, physical one. She then moves on to ancient religions, focusing not only on doctrines of life after death (most famously in ancient Egypt), but also on poetic views of the world of the dead, as captured in such works as the Odyssey and the Aeneid. Moving on to Judaism, Wolff admirably captures the ambiguity involved in Jewish teachings on the afterlife. This sets up her lengthy, detailed examination of Christianity, as she tracks views on the afterlife through religious figures (Paul, Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Swedenborg, etc.) and artists and writers (Dante, Blake, Bunyan), all against the backdrop of the proliferation of significant religious movements such as the Reformation. In the educative section on Islam, Wolff notes how Allah is “an all-powerful and transcendent but also an interested god, concerned with humans, capable of acting in history with mercy and justice.” Hinduism and Buddhism share a section, in which the author demonstrates that whereas the liberal West views all religions as heading toward a common end (a tranquil afterlife), Eastern religions can have thoroughly different concepts of what that final end may look like. The concluding section, “We Shall Not Cease From Exploration,” looks to the future of our unceasing search for meaning.

A soulful, far-reaching primer on what lies beyond.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59463-445-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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