The late Professor Lewis' fame began flickering over the wartime roofs of Oxford and Cambridge with the publication of The Screwtape Letters, a witty defense of Christianity in a "satanic" age, meaning the 20th century. But the prolific don had other bits of glitter: The Allegory of Love, a study of medieval tradition; Till We Have Faces, a novel based on the Psyche legend; and a series of fantasies, notably Perelandra, a time-travel conceit concerning a visit to Venus where the temptation of Eve is re-enacted with somersaulting results. One totes out this brief inventory, to which many other credits could be added, since in the posthumous collection of odds and ends here lamentably little of Lewis' formidable literary talents and exuberant intellect is on view. The publisher describes it as a "mixed bag of Lewisiana" bound to "be treasured by his devotees," an assessment more in the tradition of optimistic blurb than statement of fact. The essays have a mild, after-dinner charm, whimsically relaying cultured opinions on the delights of juvenile romances, the follies of highbrow criticism, a formal and informal discussion of science fiction, and some intelligent quibbling with Professor Haldane on ethics and government. The few tales seem tired and coy, though the slight extracts from a projected novel supposedly revamping the Helen in Egypt ploy and the troubles of a victorious, if cuckolded, Menelaus, have a wry, squinting gaiety.

Pub Date: June 15, 1966

ISBN: 0156027674

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1966

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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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