Bloom barely provides a gloss on more substantial work, such as the two volumes by Jack Miles (God: A Biography, 1995;...

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JESUS AND YAHWEH

THE NAMES DIVINE

A return to the Bible by the noted Yale professor and literary critic, though the slapdash results lack the depth of most of the volumes he cites.

Reinforcing his reputation as a cultural provocateur, the 75-year-old Bloom (Where Shall Wisdom Be Found, 2004, etc.) issues proclamations like Zeus hurling thunderbolts from an academic Mt. Olympus. He seems more intent on igniting firestorms of controversy than providing thoughtful analysis. Almost sure to incite an argument is his contention that the very notion of a Judeo-Christian tradition is a fallacy, that it would make as much sense to speak of a Christian-Islamic tradition (were it not for the alliance between America and Israel). Identifying himself as a heretical Jew, Bloom will also surely get a rise from the Christian devout with his almost throwaway suggestions that Jesus likely escaped crucifixion and traveled to India, and that the Gospel of Thomas has more credibility than the Synoptic Gospels of the Bible. As provocative as Bloom attempts to be, this book is more often maddening than stimulating or enlightening. The short, sketchy chapters of the first half (the “Jesus” section) read more like notes for a finished and fully realized study. Chatty and first-person discursive rather than cohesively scholarly, Bloom rambles and repeats himself, indulging in digressions before circling back to the most contentious points without deepening or amplifying his arguments. Along the way, the literary critic proclaims that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s Jesus (and that Yahweh combines elements of Hamlet, Lear and Falstaff), compares the Gospel of Mark with Edgar Allan Poe, calls Philip Roth America’s Kafka and elevates Wallace Stevens above all American poets since Whitman and Dickinson. Why? In most cases, because he says so.

Bloom barely provides a gloss on more substantial work, such as the two volumes by Jack Miles (God: A Biography, 1995; Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, 2001), which are often invoked in these pages.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2005

ISBN: 1-57322-322-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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