A meandering, lengthy, and conservative argument for traditional gender norms and sexuality.



A writer defends traditional notions of masculinity and femininity.

Drawing on her experiences in “55 years of married life” and her devotion to her Roman Catholic upbringing, debut author O’Dair implores readers to turn back to the “nostalgic days of the 1950s” and reject post-’60s feminism and the sexual revolution. In almost 400 pages, with mostly anecdotal evidence and personal reflections, the author provides traditional Catholic takes on marriage, abortion, gay sexuality, and birth control. At the crux of her argument is the belief that “modern feminism has continued to bring division between men and women” rather than recognizing the innate yet complementary differences. Whereas “a man’s responsibilities are intended to evoke a no-nonsense approach to life” that provides safety and stability for their home, women serve as caretakers and nurturers. To the author, the sexual revolution allowed men to eschew the responsibilities of fatherhood and the virtues of chastity. Other sections of the book outline what she sees as the immorality of abortion, describe the “foolishness” of “the transsexual movement,” and rail against “the LGBTQ segment of society” that “abases and ridicules the human body and our basic human…identities as male and female.” Though the author mostly repeats well-worn talking points of social and religious conservatives, the book is at its best in the rare moments when O’Dair discusses her own personal struggles with reconciling Catholic teachings on birth control with the complexities of her own family dynamics. But such introspections are few and far between in an otherwise rambling and repetitive work whose length could have been shortened by half without losing anything of substance. Most glaring is the author’s insistence on her own unflappable moral code and inspiration from the Holy Spirit. She refuses to engage with modern scholarship on gender constructs, with feminist theologians, or even with more nuanced stances on gender and sexuality taken by the Catholic Church itself. Her rudimentary dismissal of feminism and her absolutist morality that leaves no room for debate will win few converts.

A meandering, lengthy, and conservative argument for traditional gender norms and sexuality.

Pub Date: April 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-973657-25-5

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

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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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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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