A thought-provoking guide to a spiritually charged holiday tune.


A reconsideration of the meaning of Christmas via a close reading of a familiar carol.

Debut author Samford laments the commercialization of Christmas and believes it obscures the true meaning of the holiday. In an effort to rediscover Christmas’ spiritual significance, he undertakes a meticulous interpretation of the well-known carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It turns out, says Samford, to be brimming with symbolic meaning and amounts to a kind of love letter to God, the “true love” referenced throughout. For example, the reference to a partridge, a bird famously protective of its young, evokes Jesus’ devotion to mankind, just as the pear tree is a reminder of the cross, a sign of Jesus’ sacrifice. The reference to “eight maids a milking” is an oblique emblem of the eight blessings or Beatitudes offered by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, resolutions that inspire searching self-reflection and a more intimate relationship with God. Further, the mention of “eleven pipers piping” signals the 11 apostles of Jesus—Judas is excluded for his betrayal—understood as exemplars of faithfulness. The author uses each line in the carol as a portal into a deeper discussion of Scripture, commenting synoptically on the whole of the Bible. In its entirety, the song’s meaning, Samford contends, crystallizes when situated in the grander context of the Christian belief in salvation, and it functions as a grateful homage to Jesus Christ. The point of the book, according to the author, is to help others realize the fathomless depth of God’s love and re-emphasize that Christ is the center of Christmas. Samford writes clearly and informally, carefully explaining both the song and its biblical references. This is not a scholarly study—those in search of a more rigorous, academic analysis should look elsewhere—but it still achieves exegetical seriousness. Samford unambiguously addresses himself to other believing Christians, and as a result, he can be somewhat strident philosophically: “Some would dismiss the exquisite nature of the universe as the result of time and chance, but the obvious explanation is that creation is covered with God’s fingerprints and testifies to his existence.”

A thought-provoking guide to a spiritually charged holiday tune.

Pub Date: July 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5127-9356-7

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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