Intellectually fierce reading for philosophically minded readers, especially dog lovers.


An exploration of the ways dogs help humans “reconsider the ethical life: the conscience it demands, the liabilities it incurs.”

For Dayan (Humanities, Law/Vanderbilt Univ.; The Law Is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons, 2011, etc.), dogs are more than simply man’s best friends. They represent a “bridge that joins persons to things, life to death, both in our nightmares and in our daily lives.” As such, canines make humans aware of “the austere experience of nonrelation” that results from attachment to morality, which itself depends on privilege for its power. Dogs force humans to embrace “the discomfort of utter relatedness,” which Dayan believes has to do with ethics or “how individuals relate to what is not familiar.” In the first section of this three-part book, the author explores her own relationships to dogs, which began with a pet she loved and lost as a small child. Later on, other dogs that came into her life rekindled her joy and opened a connection to the divine while revealing hard truths—such as the violence that lived within her husband—that made her realize her own status as a fellow animal. In the second third of the book, Dayan examines three court cases involving owners and dogs falsely assumed to be involved in illegal dog fighting. For the author, each story not only offers evidence of “canine profiling,” but also of just how fragile constitutional rights become when confronted by the “unholy alliance of intolerance and state power.” In the last section of the book, Dayan examines representations of canines in two independent films from Turkey and Mongolia. “Through the dogs’ eyes,” she writes, “we sense a world devoid of spirit, ravaged of communion.” Stimulating and lyrical, her book suggests a unique, trans-species approach to understanding ourselves as well as the limits of human cognition and the hubris that inheres in all the things we create.

Intellectually fierce reading for philosophically minded readers, especially dog lovers.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-231-16712-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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