A remarkable, stereotype-shattering, gender-bending study of Middle Eastern women and their efforts to gain equality. Fernea (Middle Eastern Studies/Univ. of Texas) spent two years traveling to Uzbekistan, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Israel asking these questions: Is feminism possible under Islam, a religion that at least on the surface seems to demand that women be subservient to men? And if so, how is Islamic feminism different from Western feminism? Fascinating questions, these. And Fernea (coauthor, The Arab World, 1985, etc.) does an admirable job of chronicling her attempts to answer them. A travelogue of sorts, the book yields some surprises. Chief among them to Western feminists—who almost universally believe feminism is impossible for women hidden behind facial veils—is this: Feminism in the Middle East is alive and well. In Morocco, for instance, at least 20 percent of the judges are women. Not only that, but much of the funding for a major women's research center has come from the government. Which is not to suggest that all is perfect. Women's place under sharia, or Islamic law, remains up for interpretation; Uzbekistani women still rely on abortions as their primary form of birth control. Conversational in tone, the book could have used a little more editing. (Do readers really need the menu for every meal Fernea ate on her voyages?) In her effort to be exacting and fair, Fernea also includes items that do little to advance her narrative. Why, for instance, include details about an interview that never takes place with Safinaz Kassam, an Egyptian literary and drama critic? Don't let the academic-sounding title deter you. This volume explodes the myth that feminism can't take root in lands where Islam rules.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-47518-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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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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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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