Like The Book of J, on which Rosenberg collaborated with Harold Bloom, this is a highly speculative theory about a biblical author—here, of the novella-like section on King David in 2 Samuel—plus a very free adaptation of that biblical narrative. Poet and critic Rosenberg hypothesizes that the author of the Davidic narrative was ``S,'' a member of the royal court during the end of the tenth century b.c., a ``companion'' of J's and also an ``aboriginal'' who was revising the poems and narrative of an earlier Canaanite culture. The problem is that Rosenberg never specifies what the aboriginal culture consisted of or how it interacted with the civilizations that migrated to Canaan. For that matter, he provides not a shred of evidence for his thesis from Hebrew or other ancient Middle Eastern texts. Further, his perspective on David's character and relationships is highly romanticized, utterly distorting the text, as in the claim that ``David and Bathsheva demonstrate an intimacy based on equality.'' Really? The biblical narrative plainly states that David lusts after Bathsheva, has her brought by his men to his court, and arranges for her husband to be killed so that he may possess her. As for Rosenberg's poetic and prose adaptations, they too often are clumsy, as in his rendering of 2 Samuel 13:2: ``Amnon is sick with a mess of feelings for his sister Tamar—she is a virgin besides- -and it is a forbidding task to imagine what to do with her.'' Finally, there is a long, tiresome, and often esoteric appendix, mainly written by Rhonda Rosenberg (the author's wife), condemning such biblical scholars as Richard Friedman and Robert Alter. Both Rosenbergs are so focused on pseudo-scholarly speculation, creative flights of fancy, and polemics, that for pages on end they almost entirely lose contact with the beguiling, ever-contemporary narrative that the author of the David story, whoever he was, offers.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-517-70800-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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