An overly general hypothesis that’s unsupported by scientific evidence in the text.



A psychologist anatomizes an unhealthy, fragmented fictional mind and discusses how to establish a healthy sense of self. 

California-based clinical psychologist Litvin (Escape from Kolyma, 2019, etc.) avers that every human psyche pines for a “solid identity,” which he understands as one in which all its diverse parts are harmoniously organized and united. The fracturing of the psyche into incongruent elements can be healthy, he says—such “splitting” can be a worthwhile response to trauma. However, he asserts, the long-term effects are destructive and can be the root cause of chronic anxiety, depression, and a lack of self-esteem. Litvin discusses this fragmentation in inconsistent terms; it often seems to involve compartmentalization, but sometimes, it seems like a sequestering of experience—something more akin to Freudian suppression. The good news, Litvin says, is that one can transform a fractured psyche into a “utopian harmony,” or “balanced identity,” by conducting a dialogue between the disconnected fragments. He constructs a fictional case study that follows the plight of Professor Kryvoruchko, whose family members were murdered by the Nazis; his psyche is “immune to split,” Litvin says, and “represents flexibility, tolerance, and unification.” The content of this book nearly replicates that of Litvin’s Life of the Sailor (2010), which also includes the fictional example of Professor Kryvoruchko. This volume expands upon that book’s idea of sailing as a metaphor for introspective search, and provides a broader account of the nature of individual equilibrium; these concrete illustrations are of great instructional value. However, the author’s prose can be stilted and obscure, offering broad generalizations: “Superficial knowledge of who we are is responsible for the luck of intricacy.” The study also lacks scientifically rigorous investigation; Litvin doesn’t cite any evidence for his theories in the text itself, and although he often discusses chemical processes in the brain, he only does so in vague terms—without even naming the specific chemicals involved.

An overly general hypothesis that’s unsupported by scientific evidence in the text.

Pub Date: May 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4759-0558-8

Page Count: 250

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2019

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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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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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