Classic Thoreau presented in a thorough, illuminating volume.

A compilation of excerpts from the journals of American icon Henry David Thoreau.

Thoreau’s writings have endured via syllabi on college campuses, through the activism of Martin Luther King Jr., in the environmental stewardship of the green movement and in this volume. Editor Gross takes a tip, and his title, from Thoreau’s belief that the best of one’s thoughts are unvarnished, stripped of the gloss that makes them palatable to the masses: “Let it be the price of freedom to make that known.” The book presents Thoreau’s reflections, circa 1837 to 1861, on the church, government, the media and many other topics, generously footnoted by Gross. Although Thoreau died a few years before the Civil War settled the slavery issue, a number of entries concern abolitionist John Brown, who was executed in 1859, and much of this material was reworked and appeared in The Last Days of John Brown. In Price, there emerges a man who loved nature, who enjoyed his own company and thoughts and perhaps engaged in social intercourse as much out of duty as desire. A few passages suggest the underlying tenor: “Society is always diseased, and the best is the sickest.” Elsewhere, Gross includes Thoreau’s remark, “I believe that in this country the press exerts a greater and more pernicious influence than the church.” Thoreau’s thoughts on the Panic of 1857 are also applicable to the current crisis: The merchants & banks are suspending & failing all the country over, but not the sand banks, solid & warm, & streaked with bloody blackberry vines…Invest, I say, in these county banks. Let your capital be simplicity & contentment.” Though more than a century has passed since Thoreau set these thoughts to paper, Gross reminds readers of the man’s continued relevance.

Classic Thoreau presented in a thorough, illuminating volume.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4348-0552-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010


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