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



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 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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