A thoughtful, reasoned contribution to the distressing affairs of the Middle East.

ANSWERING ONLY TO GOD

THE FAILURE OF DEMOCRACY IN TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY IRAN

Which is stronger: the ayatollah or rock ’n’ roll?

Progressive Iranians, weary after 20 years of the ever-more repressive regime of the mullahs and their religious police, had much reason to hope that the inauguration of President Mohammed Khatami, a dark-horse candidate who in 1997 “had won by a landslide, beating out the handpicked conservative designated for the job,” would usher in a period of comparative freedom. And Khatami at first did much to reinforce that hope, write husband-and-wife journalists Abdo (No God But God, 2000) and Lyons, who were based in Iran from 1998 to 2001. Himself a journalist, Khatami declared, for instance, that the press would henceforth be free to criticize the government and himself, to say nothing of the clerics. The clerics responded angrily, bringing their considerable power to bear on the civil government and, in the authors’ view, repudiating the traditional Shi’ite Muslim vision of a society free of religious despotism. Abdo and Lyons point to a paradox that the Iranian government has failed to resolve since overthrowing the Shah: “Is it an Islamic state ruled by clerics or a republic ruled by the people?” Neither, it would appear—or perhaps both, though in either instance Khatami’s attempt to liberalize the government was steadily undone, with opposition newspapers closed and journalists, trade unionists, and student leaders imprisoned for having dared question the authority of the “Minister of Slogans” and other arms of the octopus state. In the authors’ blow-by-blow account, the mullahs emerge as villains through and through, victimizing not only the progressives but also ordinary Iranian Muslims by coveting the power they are supposed to shun. Whether the reform movement is truly dead remains to be seen; though the authors fear that it is, recent newspaper headlines suggest that plenty of Iranians still long for “an Islamic system but one built on social justice and civil liberties” and are willing to fight to bring it about.

A thoughtful, reasoned contribution to the distressing affairs of the Middle East.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8050-7299-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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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