HEAVENLY SUPPER

THE STORY OF MARIA JANIS

The first of Italian novelist/historian Tomizza's 22 works to be translated into English, this is the creepy tale of a 17th- century religious ascetic caught on the borderline between intense devotion and self-deception. In 1662 Venice, a peasant peers through a crack in a boardinghouse door to witness a priest and a woman performing Mass. Such private services are forbidden; the couple is denounced to the Inquisition. The woman, it transpires, is Maria Janis of Bergamo, who challenges her accusers with the extraordinary assertion that she has eaten nothing for the past five years but the bread and wine of daily communion. Her priest, Pietro Morali, backs her claim. Through months of interrogation, the authorities grind down woman and priest until they confess: Janis has indeed fasted more ``than the greatest of the desert saints'' in a pathetic effort to become a living saint—but she has also swallowed salami, headcheese, and pasta when her suffering became too great. Tomazza offers scant sympathy for his protagonist, and none of the ``suspense and coup de thÇÉtre'' he promises. Nor does he seize the opportunity to probe with any depth issues of sanctity, authority, or eating-as-sacrament. He concludes that his interest in Janis is ``due not to her holiness but rather to her humanity''—but this quality resides in everyone: small justification for a turgid read. Unnourishing.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-226-80789-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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 MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

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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