APOCALYPSES

PROPHESIES, CULTS, AND MILLENNIAL BELIEFS THROUGH THE AGES

Yet another history of millennialism and prophecy belief, shallow but a cut slightly above its peers. One of the strangest claims in Weber’s usually on-target chronicle is that millennialism is understudied and “for so long ignored in modern times.” The recent onslaught of books on the topic, many of which Weber seems to have read, testify to the contrary. Weber’s book does stand out for a couple of reasons. First, since he is a historian of early modern Europe (UCLA), Weber’s analysis is heavy on continental sources and refreshingly constrained on American millennial groups, though he does briefly round up the usual suspects (Millerites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) The book is strongest when grounded in the author’s own apparent area of expertise: France in the 18th century. Weber’s study also begins in a memorable way, with an intriguing opening discussion of the very concept of a century. Weber notes that the idea of marking time in centuries dates only to the 17th century and didn’t become popular until the 18th, so the notion that belief in apocalypse has always been tied to a millennial year is anachronistic. Weber is a terrific writer for an academic, coining fun new words such as “billennium” for the year 2000 and “the enserfed” for the heathen masses. But such mellifluous prose seems wasted on this overhyped, tired topic. The book spreads itself too thin, attempting to function as a “travel guide” through 2,000 years of (mostly Christian) millennialism, from St. Paul to the Nation of Islam. In journalistic fashion, Weber skips lightly from one example to another without exploring the deeper histories of these movements. Certainly entertaining, but Weber’s obvious skill is squandered in this superficial treatment of a hackneyed subject.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-674-04080-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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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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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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