At times a bit dense for the casual reader, but Eck’s perseverance illuminates one of the world’s most mysterious and...

INDIA

A SACRED GEOGRAPHY

A far-reaching exploration of the spiritual geography and sacred spaces of India.

With its hundreds of disparate peoples connected by a shared conception of place, India is, in the words of statesman Jawaharlal Nehru, “an ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie [has] been inscribed, and yet no succeeding layer [has] completely hidden or erased what [has] been written previously.” The country is densely layered with places, events, markers and deities from the Mahabharata, the Rig Veda and other foundational Indian texts. Each of these sites, in turn, is connected to the others in a vast, complex network stretching the length and breadth of the land, from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. It is this mythical or spiritual geography that gives Hinduism its power and meaning and shapes how other faiths, from Sikhism to Christianity and Islam, are practiced there. Eck (Comparative Religion and Indian Studies/Harvard Univ., A New Religious America, 2001, etc.) explores the numerous holy rivers and pilgrimage paths of India, seeking out temples and shrines marking a particular place’s significance within the span of Indian cosmology. Explaining how the various gods in the Hindu pantheon are associated with certain regions and features of the landscape, Eck connects the Hindu legends to the physical geography of the country. In this way, every village, creek, ridge or copse of trees represents an identifiable moment, object or event in the Hindu scriptures. Pilgrims bring these associations to life by traveling the land on hundreds of set paths—e.g., from the head to the heart to the navel to the feet of Krishna—helping to develop, as they go, a united sense of Indian identity that transcends linguistic or cultural affiliations.

At times a bit dense for the casual reader, but Eck’s perseverance illuminates one of the world’s most mysterious and multifaceted countries.

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-53190-0

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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

Did you like this book?

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more