But, on the whole, this is an engaging introduction to Mormon history and belief.



A Mormon primer that believers and nonbelievers alike will profit from.

At the start, Newell lays his cards on the table: he is a devout Mormon, albeit a convert to the faith from a vegetarian, rockandroll background. He is also a pretty leisurely writer: his history of Mormonism doesn’t get to its founder, Joseph Smith, until chapter eight. The first seven chapters lay the foundation, starting with Gods creation of the world. Those who know their Bible may be tempted to skip ahead, but those who don’t will learn that the Church of Jesus Christ of LatterDay Saints (that’s the official name) believes that “long, long ago you and I were born as spirit children of God, and, naturally, a Goddess”; that Adam and Eve knew (and lived in accordance with) the Gospel; and that, after his resurrection, Jesus visited North America. In short, we are offered not just Mormon history, but Mormon cosmology, as well. Then Newell takes us through more familiar territory—Joseph Smith receives his visitation in 1820, translates the Book of Mormon, and organizes his band of faithful followers. They set up shop in Missouri, and then later in Nuavoo, Illinois, where Smith is assassinated. Brigham Young leads the LatterDay Saints to Utah. If Newell’s historical narrative is not terribly original, he does give more attention to Young than most accounts—and this is important because, while all sectarian groups have charismatic founders, what distinguishes those that survive from those that fade after a generation or so is the ability of the second leader (the one who comes after the founder) to seize the reigns of command and take charge—something Young did masterfully. Newell’s account would have benefited from more coverage of contemporary Mormon life (in the style of Richard and Joan Ostling’s Mormon America). Furthermore, nonMormon readers may be put off by Newell’s occasionally sanctimonious and smug tone.

But, on the whole, this is an engaging introduction to Mormon history and belief.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-24108-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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 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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