Nothing groundbreaking, but Tobin provides a light, fluffy, fun read.

READ REVIEW

WAS JESUS REALLY BORN ON CHRISTMAS?

THE CATHOLIC ORIGINS OF HOLY DAYS, HOLIDAYS, AND EVERY DAY

The origins of major Western holidays, from a Catholic perspective.

Former Catholic Advocate editor Tobin (Selecting the Pope: Uncovering the Mysteries of Papal Elections, 2003, etc.) makes the argument that virtually all aspects of the modern Western calendar are derived from Roman Catholic sources (with a good deal of help from pagan culture). Much of the information here is readily available elsewhere, but he does a service by collecting these facts into a single volume. Tobin begins with the start of the Christian liturgical year—Advent—and moves on to Christmas, tackling the book’s title question (no, Jesus was apparently not born on Christmas, as is now widely known). The author moves along chronologically through the year, treating both well-known holidays such as Easter and Thanksgiving, as well as less widely celebrated ones, such as Christ the King Sunday. Tobin provides interesting tidbits and trivia throughout, making for a quick, entertaining read. Along with an explanation of various holidays, the author explores the origin of the Gregorian Calendar. In all cases, Tobin brings his readers back to the Catholic perspective. For instance, when discussing Thanksgiving (which, he wryly points out, “is not a Catholic holy day, per se”), the author provides a family prayer for use around the Thanksgiving table, approved by the Catholic bishops of the United States. Tobin also devotes a chapter to the effects of the Second Vatican Council on the church calendar. Woven throughout the narrative are references to or reminders of how secular society has made use of various holidays for commercial means (“The greeting card, flower, and candy industries love, love, love St. Valentine, for he provides substantial cash flow in the first quarter of the year, the first major spending holiday after Christmas”).

Nothing groundbreaking, but Tobin provides a light, fluffy, fun read.

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-230-10487-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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