Further speculations and pronouncements from the highly regarded Parisian philosopher (History and Utopia, 1987, etc.), as varied in their subjects as in their depth. ``In any book governed by the Fragment, truths and whims keep company throughout.'' Thus Cioran begins a collection of literary portraits (de Maistre, Beckett, Borges, Fitzgerald) intermingled with aphorisms and random thoughts. The whims are apparent from the start. This is a book of meditation and conceit, in which the personality of the author is brought forcibly to bear upon every subject under consideration. The result is a kind of confession, Pascal-like in its intensity. Cioran's highly personal, almost confidential tone is most appropriate when he examines those figures who were known to him in real lifeBeckett, for example, or Eliadeor whose histories share important features with his own (such as Fitzgerald, whose long struggle with depression provides the subject for one of the most insightful pieces in the book). Cioran's lack of clear focus can be tiresome, howeverespecially in his reflections on de Maistre, where he examines the notions of ``Utopia'' and ``reaction'' from too many angles and at too great a length. His aphorisms are diverse and unorganized, and range from the striking (``To be called a deicide is the most flattering insult that can be addressed to an individual'') to the banal (``One can be proud of what one has d one, but one should be much prouder of what one has not done''). The final chapter, which speaks of the creative impulse and the urge to write''to vomit up one's secrets''is succinct and moving. Brilliant and delightfully opinionated, if a bit verbose. Not a book to be read straight through, but one with enough substance to satisfy anyone.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 1-55970-128-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1991

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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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