A plodding, shallow account of a year in the Christian life.

THE CLOSE

A YOUNG WOMAN’S FIRST YEAR AT SEMINARY

Harvard grad and social activist Breyer’s tale of her first year at an Episcopal seminary in New York City fails to illuminate.

Stringing together a series of disparate anecdotes about seminary life, the author never gets around to providing a coherent overview or deeper understanding. In one potentially fascinating scene, Breyer describes attending a retreat in Connecticut at which a Father Stephen tells the future ministers that popular culture today offers a confusing and ambiguous message about what priesthood is supposed to be. Instead of following up with her own thoughts on the nature of priesthood in the 21st century, the author digresses into an unrelated tale about a tragedy that struck Father Stephen’s parish. Similarly, Breyer notes that, in January, many of her classmates report experiencing a sort of culture shock during Christmas break, finding it difficult to leave the seminary cocoon and attend their parents’ churches. This presents an obvious opportunity to consider the relationship between a calling to ordained ministry and the rest of one’s life, but Breyer ignores it. Readers are left to wonder how her Jewish dad (Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer) reacted to her call to ordination and, more broadly, how wearing a dog collar affects everyday conversation and interactions with strangers. Breyer’s treatment of her commitment to social justice is equally disappointing; she describes getting arrested at an Episcopal Day protest, but doesn’t elaborate on why she participated or how she felt about incarceration. The sacrament of marriage gets short shrift too. Breyer arrives at seminary fresh from her honeymoon, but says nothing about her marriage as a spiritual journey. She hints that her husband does not share her enthusiasm for Christianity, but never tells us how spirituality affects their relationship, or vice versa. The closest she comes is her admission that Greg gets annoyed when she opts for studying over cleaning up the kitchen.

A plodding, shallow account of a year in the Christian life.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-465-00714-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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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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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

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