Humble, challenging and inspiring.

ANARCHY EVOLUTION

FAITH, SCIENCE, AND BAD RELIGION IN A WORLD WITHOUT GOD

With the assistance of science journalist Olson (Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our Genes, 2002, etc.), Bad Religion leader Graffin presents a memoir of a life lived “at the intersection of evolutionary biology and punk rock.”

In 1980, at age 15, Graffin co-founded the seminal punk band and also became fascinated with the writings and ideas of evolution. Bad Religion still plays and records, and the author is an evolutionary biologist with a doctorate in zoology from Cornell University. For Graffin, the appeal of both worlds was that, at their best, they challenged authority, dogma and given truths and opened up space for the anarchic process of creativity. As a naturalist, the author states that “the physical universe is the universe”—there is nothing more. But that is more than enough for him, as having a role in the unfolding adventure of life on earth—which includes both tragedy and death—sustains him. Life, he writes, is not simply an inexorable process of natural selection, in which the fittest survive and procreate, but an anarchic creative collision of biology and environment, chance and circumstance. Graffin and Olson explain this view of evolution in clear, accessible language. While avoiding easy analogies with evolution, a large part of the book is devoted to the evolution of Bad Religion, as its art and career careened in unpredictable directions. Along the way, Graffin provides a wonderful depiction of the early L.A. punk scene, a detailed account of his adventures doing field work in the remote Amazon region of Bolivia and an honest appraisal of his failure to successfully balance science, music and family. In the end, writes the author, it is the human trait of empathy—not religion or any other authority—that allows us to recognize our common humanity and to accept the uniqueness of each individual.

Humble, challenging and inspiring.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-182850-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: It Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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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