This is part of a large scale Critique of Dialectical Reason in which Sartre, French eminence grise, formally acknowledges Marxism as the 20th century's only philosophy and existentialism as a subordinate ideology working within it. The bases are suspect, the arguments shopworn. For Sartre, existentialism is a parasitical system living on the margin of Marxism; in the past it opposed it, now it seeks membership. And what is that but a parallel to Christian assimilation of pagan symbology? Truth is a becoming; totalization is what it becomes, and Marxism is "history itself becoming conscious of itself"- which is Hegelian double-talk all over again. Man is not unknowable: we must develop a "philosophical anthropology". The 18th century Idea of Reason and/or Pavlovian mechanics. Of course Sartre is against both; more perplexity. The scarcity problem is both in economics and emotions and shall be eliminated through collective means; the new fundamental of freedom is Marxist need, not bourgeois desire. Thus, the further juggling of terms and terms. Contradiction is the dialectic and class structure is the contradiction; the capitalist crises produce proletarian class consciousness and rebellion. But except in pre-industrial situations such as Czarist Russia, where has that ever happened? In short, knowledge is Marxism and all of us are Marxists whether we like it or not. And what deep that resemble except Christ as the Indivisible Historical Truth? He died for you, boys; like it or not His death (the Incarnation/Resurrection) is your Meaning. All men are brothers, said Christ. There will be no classes, said Marx. And Sartre, self-hating petit-bourgeois, attempts to escape his class via the Marxist Good News. Unfortunately only the most rigorous, rapier-sharp scrutiny justifies such propositions being elucidated, elongated. And that's not here. Sartre's Method seems continually in double focus: polemical bursts of sunlight along with endless skywriting on a cloudy day. A cognoscenti conversation piece.

Pub Date: June 17, 1963

ISBN: 0394704649

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1963

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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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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.


The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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