Add water and stir: a political philosophy in 30 easy lessons, just right for college students too busy or ill-educated to...

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LETTERS TO A YOUNG CONSERVATIVE

A recruiting brochure for the conservative cause, padded with the usual slams against Hilary Clinton, feminists, and anyone who questions the intellectual might and political accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

This volume in the Art of Mentoring series finds Reagan administration alumnus D’Souza (The Virtue of Prosperity, 2000, etc.) piloting a young college student between the treacherous shoals of liberalism on one hand and libertarianism on the other. Avuncular and arch, D’Souza peppers his letters of instruction with homespun homilies about right-wing virtues: if I give a hungry man a sandwich, he writes, “then I have done a good deed, and I feel good about it. . . . But then see what happens when the government gets involved. The government takes my sandwich from me by force. . . . Instead of showing me gratitude . . . the man feels entitled to this benefit.” Humans are inherently driven by self-interest, he goes on to explain, and conservatives, unlike liberals, have no illusions about their perfectibility; hence, conservatives have a more realistic view of humankind, which is why they’re so much better at government and better people to boot. In all of this, D’Souza avoids the empty windbaggishness of Rush Limbaugh and the nastiness of Ann Coulter, but his arguments for the superiority of conservatism (or, really, neoconservatism) turn on a similar glibness: he falls easily into us good–them bad rhetoric and half-baked formulas (conservatives care about money, whereas liberals care about power, which is so much dirtier than money). Some of his attacks are well placed, if of the fish-in-a-barrel variety, as when he takes on proponents of academic “political correctness” (a term he popularized with his 1991 book Illiberal Education) and twits elite radicals who “communicate their anger in very nice lounges over expensive meals and fancy cocktails.” Few, however, are completely thought through, suggesting that D’Souza wrote his Letters in a hurry—for money, of course, and not for power.

Add water and stir: a political philosophy in 30 easy lessons, just right for college students too busy or ill-educated to read Edmund Burke or William Buckley.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-465-01733-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2002

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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 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

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

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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