A history worth reading.

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THE FAITHFUL

A HISTORY OF CATHOLICS IN AMERICA

Intermittently intriguing look at the development of the American Catholic church from the perspective of its laity.

O’Toole (History/Boston Coll.; Habits of Devotion: Catholic Religious Practice in Twentieth-Century America, 2004, etc.) divides the Catholic history in America into six eras. In each case, he focuses on the laypersons who powered the work of the church and made up its ever-changing demographic. Starting with the “Priestless Church” of the nation’s early decades, when parishioners had to make their way in both fledgling cities and the wilderness without much clerical leadership, the author then moves on to the “Church of the Democratic Republic,” which tried to reconcile American egalitarianism with the church’s hierarchical structure. Later in the 19th century came the “Immigrant Church,” which struggled with accommodating rapid and often volatile changes in the national population. The 20th century saw the “Church of Catholic Action” followed by the “Church of Vatican II,” eras which included social unrest and sea changes in the church itself. Finally, the author looks at the “Church in the Twenty-first Century” and its struggles with the clergy molestation scandal, a scarcity of priests and the continued shifting of demographics due to immigration. O’Toole’s history, focusing especially on personal narratives, makes for captivating reading. But that same reliance upon individual accounts becomes somewhat problematic, as the author often seems to identify national trends based on scant information from primary sources. The book also fails to place American Catholicism within a global context. For instance, O’Toole describes the change in communion being administered in the hand instead of on the tongue, which was practiced by many parishes in the mid 20th century. But was this new practice found in America only or was it part of a global trend?

A history worth reading.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-674-02818-0

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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