A bit too reverent to withstand scrutiny, this will find a welcome audience among believers but is unlikely to bring many...

THE TRUTH OF CATHOLICISM

TEN CONTROVERSIES EXPLORED

A concise catechism of the Catholic faith, with specific reference made to common objections of nonbelievers, by papal biographer Weigel (Witness to Hope, 1999, etc.).

Weigel’s approach is unusual insofar as it proceeds from ten (often highly skeptical) queries (e.g., “Does Belief in God Demean Us?”), meant to reflect prevailing contemporary views, which the author addresses in the course of portraying the outlines of Catholic belief. The influence of Pope John Paul’s thinking on Weigel is evident from the start: He quotes the pope extensively, and he makes use of the pope’s distinctive terminology (the result of his philosophical training as a phenomenologist) throughout. The result, in consequence, shares many of the same strengths and weaknesses that keen-eyed observers have credited to the Holy Father himself: original, bold, and erudite, but also frequently obscure, highly analogical, and sometimes downright eccentric in its meaning. And, also like the current papacy, the author is wont to straddle the fence a good deal—arguing, for example, that the exclusion of women from Holy Orders does not entail a repudiation of postwar feminism and that the (vehemently antidemocratic) political doctrines of modern popes were not contradicted by the Second Vatican Council’s endorsement of religious freedom. But this is a refreshing account all the same, forthright in its unwillingness to gloss over controversial questions and highly original in its reliance on literary works (e.g., the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the novels of Evelyn Waugh) to illustrate moral or philosophical arguments. In its contrast of the “brave new world” of modern technological man to the “better world” of the Church, it is very much a continuation of the underlying theme of Weigel’s biography of John Paul II.

A bit too reverent to withstand scrutiny, this will find a welcome audience among believers but is unlikely to bring many others into their ranks.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-621330-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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 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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