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Best read as an introduction to a more substantial work, would that we had one.

A slender meditation on the human urge to fix things.

Beginning with obvious types of repair to inanimate objects, Spelman (Philosophy/Smith; Fruits of Sorrow, 1997, etc.) muses on the occupational differences between an automobile mechanic, a vintage motorcycle restorer, and three painting conservators. In the first profession, the goal is the resurrection of machinery: an engine that runs, doors and windows that open and close. The motorcycle restorer, however, must replace damaged bits with authentic parts from the same make and model; a good restoration will result in a bike that closely resembles the original as it came off the factory floor. And the painting conservators engage in “invisible mending,” a process that must be reversible, well documented, and approved by both curator and artist. The author next turns to metaphorical repair, citing examples from the criminal-justice system, the Holocaust, the internment of Japanese-Americans, and the enslavement of Africans in the US. Unfortunately, Spelman flits away from each example as soon as it is offered. In discussing the gas chambers at Birkenau, for instance, she offers no opinion as to whether the site should be fully restored, partially restored (just enough to halt deterioration), or allowed to fall into complete disrepair. Tackling intangible repairs (can Holocaust survivors be repaired and should they even want to?), Spelman raises a number of questions but examines none of them in depth. She mentions the tantalizing detail that in Japan there exists an aesthetic movement referred to as wabi, in which “visibly repaired teapots can be more beautiful than unbroken ones,” but does not explore this motif further. Another interesting point—that repair is at odds with a capitalist consumer economy—is also swiftly abandoned. Finally, her thesis that the urge to repair is universal constrains the author from meaningful exploration of culture or class.

Best read as an introduction to a more substantial work, would that we had one.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2002

ISBN: 0-8070-2012-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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 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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