“It is hard learning to live ‘one hour higher than the torments,’ ” Wiman writes, quoting Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer....



The link between art and faith, as seen by a noted poet.

When Wiman (Religion and Literature/Yale Univ.; Once in the West, 2014, etc.), a former editor of Poetry magazine, was 38, he had lunch with poet Donald Hall. During the meal, Hall “turned his Camel-blasted eighty-year-old Yeti decrepitude to me” and made a startling admission. “I was thirty-eight when I realized not a word I wrote was going to last,” Hall said. That’s a shocking thing for any young writer to hear, but Hall’s statement would take on greater resonance when, a few years later, Wiman received a cancer diagnosis. In this memoir, the author considers the question, “What is it we want when we can’t stop wanting?” For Wiman, one answer is faith, but as he puts it, spiritual hunger is like poetry in that it “thrives on longings that can never be fulfilled, and dies when the poet thinks they have been.” Throughout this volume, the author explores the relationship between poetry and faith and the lessons each has taught him. He references many poems, most notably Philip Larkin’s “Aubade,” in which Larkin laments “Unresting death, a whole day nearer now” and “The good not done, the love not given, time / Torn off unused.” Wiman also writes of the poets he has known, among them A.R. Ammons, who, during a reading when Wiman was an undergraduate, said to the crowd, “You can’t possibly be enjoying this,” and sat down; and Mary Oliver, who, after Wiman picked her up for Chicago’s annual Poetry Day, examined with wonder a dead half-pigeon they found on the ground, stuffed it into her jacket, and gave her reading with the half-pigeon still in her pocket.

“It is hard learning to live ‘one hour higher than the torments,’ ” Wiman writes, quoting Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer. This moving book explores not only those torments, but also the understanding that art can provide.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-16846-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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