The wisdom about shunning rigid thinking outweighs the meandering memoir and lack of original theme in this hybrid volume.



A meditation on the follies of religious and atheist fundamentalism.

Schaeffer (Crazy for God, 2007, etc.) fled the evangelical Christianity of his father, the late evangelist Francis Schaeffer, and today is Greek Orthodox. Here the author criticizes both the religious right and the recent wave of angry atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. Schaeffer stresses that ethical behavior, not certitude about supernatural creeds, was an early Judeo-Christian teaching. It’s a solid though unoriginal argument—recent books by Harvard theologian Harvey Cox and British author Karen Armstrong cover much of the same ground. Schaeffer argues for “hopeful uncertainty,” a humility about one’s beliefs that rejects the certitude of doctrinaire believers and atheists alike. His openly contemptuous insults of both groups may put off readers who admire the Franklin Grahams or, alternately, Richard Dawkinses of the world, but his criticisms, buttressed by quoting his targets’ own words, are on target. It’s when he turns to personal recollections that Schaeffer becomes tedious, save for the occasional interesting anecdote. One gem is the story about his British boarding school’s headmaster teaching him compassion instead of bullying. Schaeffer also writes movingly about finding God—not in creeds about a virgin birth or Jesus’s miracles, but in his baby granddaughter, Lucy. Noting that strokes have reduced his 94-year-old mother to a cognitive level similar to Lucy’s, he muses that while they may never meet, their consciousness is similar: “Mom is slowly falling asleep. Lucy is waking up.”

The wisdom about shunning rigid thinking outweighs the meandering memoir and lack of original theme in this hybrid volume.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-306-81854-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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 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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