The interviews need not be read in order because each can stand on its own.



Yancy (Philosophy/Emory Univ.; Look, A White!: Philosophical Essays on Whiteness, 2012, etc.) conducts interviews with fellow philosophy professors and other thinkers in order to illuminate reasons for enduring racial divides and perhaps arrive at constructive paths forward.

The author, who is black, regularly shares his perspectives on race with general readerships, and he hopes this collection of interview transcripts will increase accessibility to learned perspectives. For the most part, the transcripts are enlightening and jargon free, but occasionally, the discussions become densely academic—e.g., when Yancy and some of his interviewees discuss the role of professional philosophers in reducing racial discrimination. The best-known interviewees include Cornel West, bell hooks, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Noam Chomsky, and Peter Singer. Insights about race emerge from each entry, including interviews about racial issues in nations other than the United States, especially Australia and the United Kingdom. Placing racial hatreds within the context of capitalism is one of many strengths of the book. Interviews with Traci C. West and Charles Johnson examine the intersection between racial divides and organized religions, a perspective too often minimized or omitted in national conversations. The discussion between Yancy and Appiah stands out for its thread that no society has achieved the goal of true racial equality. Furthermore, as these conversations show, prejudices often extend to people beyond the black/white binary, and there are numerous insights into the significance of Black Lives Matter. In the book’s introduction, Yancy explains how the election of Donald Trump led to an urgency to address white nationalism, as so many of the book’s 34 sections do. Yancy believes speaking out candidly involves risks in such a politicized atmosphere. As a result, he terms the interviews “dangerous conversations.”

The interviews need not be read in order because each can stand on its own.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-049855-9

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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