The book might provide more inspiration to fellow alcoholics than it will add to the scholarship on three figures of various...




A former religion reporter details the occasionally intersecting lives of three spiritual seekers in order to tell the story that compels him more, a personal account of addiction, recovery and sobriety.

“Aldous Huxley, Gerald Heard, and Bill Wilson set the stage for the spiritual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s,” writes the author of the “famous writer,” “forgotten philosopher” and “hopeless drunk” of his subtitle. “They distilled the spirits of organized religion into a powerful new blend that would help change the way Americans practice their faith and live their lives.” Though Lattin (The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America, 2010) maintains an engaging, conversational tone as he meanders through the lives of these three, their selection might seem arbitrary, with Heard seemingly the odd man out. Even if one accepts his influence on The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, written by Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, the reader might agree with one contemporary who says, “There was something not quite right about Gerald Heard.” The increasingly mystic and ascetic philosopher meditated six hours a day, practiced celibacy while advising married couples to stop having relations, and retreated from contact with formerly close friends such as Huxley. As for Wilson, who published pieces by both of the other two in his AA Grapevine publication, he was an early advocate of LSD who remained addicted to sex and tobacco, and he howled for whiskey on his deathbed. The key figure in this “blend of memoir and biography” is Lattin, whose narrative arc might be the strangest. He somehow balanced his religion reportage with a descent into cocaine addiction and alcoholism, and he sees this book as a crucial element in his ongoing sobriety (five years now), even though some may feel it violates the anonymity precept of AA. “One of the things I learned from AA is that many of us drink in an effort to quench a religious thirst,” he writes. “It’s how we get some temporary relief from the spiritual emptiness.”

The book might provide more inspiration to fellow alcoholics than it will add to the scholarship on three figures of various accomplishment and renown.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-520-27232-3

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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