A poor contribution to a serious subject, this may indeed illustrate just how badly Catholic religious life misshapes one’s...




A short and rather smarmy reconsideration of the traditional Catholic doctrines regarding marriage and celibacy, written by ex-priest Kennedy (My Brother Joseph, 1997, etc.).

The universal overthrow of sexual taboos that took place during the latter half of the 20th century, anticipated by Freudian psychology and made possible by the development of chemical contraceptives and penicillin, came as a great surprise to just about everybody. Religious leaders, in particular, were caught with their pants down by this turn of events: Most of them (and especially the Catholics, who were predominantly celibate) had never bothered to devote a great deal of thought to sexuality from a specifically religious perspective—relying instead on appeals to natural law (among Catholics), tribal custom (for Muslims), or purification rites (within Judaism). The sexual revolution pulled the rug out from beneath all of these authorities, however, leaving many of the clergy with no idea where they were now to stand. Kennedy, who left the Catholic priesthood in the late 1960s, displays this disorientation (from which he has apparently never recovered) on every page of his study. Although he is quite specific in his condemnation of the traditional Catholic approach (to contraception, masturbation, divorce, etc.), his rage seems to be fueled by mists: He never bothers to articulate the grounds (either intellectual or religious) upon which his dissent is based, and he seems equally unable to put forward any “positive” approach to the subject—beyond vague talk of “unhealed wounds” and some silly, postmodern analogizing (e.g., Pope John Paul as the Fisher King) that sounds like a Leo Buscaglia script written by Joseph Campbell. “The priest is the wounded mythic figure, the wounded seeker of the Grail . . . whose infection and pain arise from that deep and unattended estrangement in the spiritual institution—the Church from this world, Spirit from Nature, the terrible price of a divided image of personality.”

A poor contribution to a serious subject, this may indeed illustrate just how badly Catholic religious life misshapes one’s understanding of sexual life—although probably not in the way the author intended.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26637-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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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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