A curious volume about the cult known as the Children of God, from Van Zandt, a sociologist (Law/Northeastern) who infiltrated a British branch. The Children of God was one of the cults that sprang up in the 1960's and 70's, part of an evangelistic movement known collectively as the Jesus People (or, more irritably, as ``Jesus freaks''). It drew attention initially, says the author, because it required members to drop out of the system and join ``Family'' communes and later because its leader, David Berg (``Moses David''), espoused sexual activity for its members that went far beyond even the new freedom of the flower children. Introducing children to sex (usually, although not always, with other children) at an early age, using sex to lure new members in a proselytizing gambit called ``Flirty Fishing,'' Berg directed the sexual activity of his followers through pastoral letters known as ``Mo letters.'' The author joined one group covertly for a month, spent another two months with another colony with the permission of the leaders, and kept in touch with members and leaders (not Berg) for another several years, ending in 1978. His aim was to find out what it was like living within a so-called ``programmed'' community—boring, for the most part, it turns out, even to some believers. Days were spent reading the ``Word'' (of Bible or Berg), ``litnessing'' (distributing literature to unwary pedestrians), and doing chores. All that sex sounds more uninhibited than it was, since many of the members weren't enthusiastic about the policies and didn't participate. And although massive verbal efforts were made to restrain them, there was no physical force used to keep members from leaving the group. Overall, despite some interesting anecdotes, Van Zandt's presentation is flat, his observations thin, his conclusions amorphous. The ``Mo letter'' reproduced in an appendix has a lot more punch. (Nine halftones—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1991

ISBN: 0-691-09463-2

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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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