Uplifting, heretical or irrelevant, depending on the reader’s religious beliefs.

AN AMERICAN GOSPEL

ON FAMILY, HISTORY AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Reece (Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness, 2006) identifies and advocates a strain of American spirituality that values the philosophical wisdom of Jesus over his function as a savior.

The author assures us that he has found numerous precedents in American thought for a spirituality that merges the proven benefits of religious devotion with a more progressive social agenda, all while skipping the leaps of faith required to believe in the Resurrection and the Life Everlasting. Reece points to several revered thinkers, including Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and fellow Kentuckian Wendell Berry, who reject fundamentalism’s emphasis on the hereafter as destructive to the human spirit and to the environment, yet keep the radically compassionate message of Jesus intact. The kingdom of God is not in the afterlife, they believe, but all around us. This “good news” has its philosophical basis in the controversial Gospel of Thomas, which Reece claims as the most authentic representation of Jesus’ teachings. For the author, the search for an alternative to the dominant Puritan reading of the Gospels resulted from witnessing the devastating psychological effects of fundamentalism on his grandfather and father, both Baptist ministers. Reece’s grandfather found solace in a strict dualism of right and wrong, heaven and hell, whereas his father lost the struggle with feelings of doubt and depravity, eventually committing suicide. For the most part, Reece uses these autobiographical details as powerful illustrations, not expressive ends unto themselves—although his own story underlies the narrative throughout. Written with a scholar’s precision but in frank, readable prose, the book advances an optimistic, intellectual, environmentalist reclamation of sacred Christian beliefs and of Americans’ complex relationship with Jesus.

Uplifting, heretical or irrelevant, depending on the reader’s religious beliefs.

Pub Date: April 2, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59448-859-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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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 author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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