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Far from uninteresting but too often self-indulgent and unsatisfying.

A search for faith amid war, terror, and family strife.

Covington (Creative Writing/Texas Tech Univ.; Redneck Riviera: Armadillos, Outlaws, and the Demise of an American Dream, 2003, etc.) purports to look for faith against the backdrop of a violent world. Though he occasionally stays on course, the narrative takes a variety of detours, frustrating readers and muddling his work. The author begins in Juárez, where drug-inspired violence has spread out of control for years. He recounts the work of one preacher who, in addition to burning an effigy of Judas to drive Satan out of the city, runs an inspiring ministry, aiding those living, and escaping from, lives of violence. Covington goes on to recount visits to Turkey, and to the Turkey-Syria border, where he encountered both victims of and participants in the violence. Covington also crossed over into Syria, witnessing firsthand the horror of war. This timely and page-turning section represents the author at his best, as he ably conveys the otherworldly scene of suffering and brutality. However, he continually reverts back to his own personal story. In page after page of self-catharsis, Covington describes growing up with his older brother, a troubled young man who ended up in mental hospitals and nursing homes; his two failed marriages; and his own mental health issues, including a lack of a will to live after returning from Syria. Though not without merit, these sections continually detract from the author’s real mission. Faith, in fact, has little to do with this book. Covington does not have it, nor do most of the people he met during his travels. When he does address people of faith in the midst of violence, he is unable to report on their thoughts and motives with the depth needed for a book on the topic.

Far from uninteresting but too often self-indulgent and unsatisfying.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-36861-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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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 19, 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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