An unconventional reading of the Garden of Eden story, offering the best-selling rabbi's suggestions about its psychological implications for the children of Adam and Eve. Rabbi Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 1981; To Life: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking, 1993; etc.) contends that we demand too much of ourselves and forgive too little. The traditional reading of the Adam and Eve saga as a paradigm of disobedience and divine punishment is responsible, he feels, for much of the unnecessary guilt that we heap on ourselves. We must free ourselves of the notion that God demands perfection of us. ``It is the notion that we were supposed to be perfect, and that we could expect others to be perfect . . . that leaves us feeling constantly guilty and perpetually disappointed.'' The purpose of religion, contends Kushner, is to ease our troubled souls and not to exacerbate our doubts and conflicts. Religion ideally teaches us that not only does God forgive our mistakes, but that our mistakes have a divine purpose, as experiences from which we can grow. ``Religion properly understood is the cure for feelings of guilt and shame, not their cause.'' And just as we must learn to forgive ourselves, we must be more forgiving of others. The alternative is to turn ourselves into victims and others into victimizers. Sin and punishment are not our inheritance from Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve's legacies of work, love, and the awareness of mortality make up the ``burden and challenges of being truly human.'' Nowhere, however, does Kushner consider more complex questions, such as how society should handle those who suffer not from an excess of guilt, but from its absence. Replete with personal anecdotes and references to contemporary literature, this is an appealing but ultimately shallow piece of feel-good pop theology. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 1996

ISBN: 0-316-50741-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998



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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