An untidy assemblage of underworked thoughts.

READ REVIEW

THE BASIC LAW FOR DEVELOPING HUMAN LIFE

AND ITS RESULTING THEORY OF ORGANIZATION

An ambitious attempt to reorganize Western society and place it on firmer philosophical foundations.

Debut author Dierolf’s aims are essentially boundless: to articulate the laws of nature that allow humankind to flourish and provide a full philosophical account of them. The new society that the author describes is based on the satisfaction of five basic human rights: the first two are a sufficiently stable existence, provided by loving parents, and the ability to speak, read, and write a language; the third and fourth draw on humans’ natural gregariousness and individuality, asserting, respectively, the right to membership in a larger group or organization (such as “Nations, cities, provinces, [or] churches”) and the right to cultivate an autonomous sense of self. The fifth right is the ability to join (or create) at least one group of friends. The path that Dierolf rhetorically travels to explain these rights, and to detail the kind of community that would spring from their faithful observance, is a winding one—so full of detours that it will be easy for readers to forget what his final destination is, if there ever was one. He covers a dizzying assemblage of ostensibly heterogeneous topics, including personhood and consciousness, the Quran, and Facebook. The book opens with a summary of sorts, largely comprised of a catalog of dozens of philosophical questions that the author purports to decisively solve. The book’s intention is to thoroughly rethink the basis of Western civilization, including its religious heritage, in a way that not only promises to revitalize Europe, but also potentially cause an Islamic reformation. However, the thematic center of the study—the five basic rights—are treated almost tangentially: confidently announced but not rigorously established. Indeed, the author appears to forget them in his effort to clarify the whole of the cosmos. Although he informs readers at the outset that his prose is “quite readable and accessible,” he also claims that the “versatility and precision of the prevalent English language are too limited for the author” and then provides a set of complicated “instructions for reading.” He invents a technical vocabulary of his own, and, problematically, he repeatedly uses terms—such as “potenscience,” “meaning literally in English ‘potential (of) knowledge’ ”—that are often confusingly obscure. Often, the definitions that Dierolf supplies only muddy the waters due to relentlessly turbid prose: “ ‘Experience’ indicates a reduction of information into conflict, which is then (to be) enriched with meaning to, at best, facilitate a (hopefully authentic, more conscious) understanding. A ‘lasting’ experience that is remembered, is an experience of ‘importance.’ ” Dierolf’s ambitions in this book are seemingly limitless, and it’s impossible not to be impressed by his longing for a deep and systematic understanding of the human condition. He displays a will for theoretical comprehensiveness that has long gone out of fashion, and his embrace of a kaleidoscopically multidisciplinary approach is refreshing. Unfortunately, the book’s overall lack of rhetorical clarity doesn’t live up to its mammoth aspirations.

An untidy assemblage of underworked thoughts.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-979608-54-1

Page Count: 332

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2018

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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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