Reading or attempting to read this ponderous and pretentious treatise will not help the ambivalent woman come to a decision...




From a French cosmetic surgeon comes word that true beauty is found not in facial perfection but in a certain je ne sais quoi that he labels seductiveness.

Actually, Hagège takes many, many words to say this, and either he is a master of verbosity and obscurity or his translator has made him out to be one. Seduction, he tells the reader in one of his numerous struggles to define his terms, “escapes any calculation, it is a way of belonging to life, it is a movement, a truth,” and being seductive is “first of all pleasing yourself, being confident, surprising yourself, loving yourself, letting yourself be.” In his view, the key to acquiring this elusive but essential internal quality lies in the limbic system, the brain of emotions and passion, which one must liberate from the tyranny of the cortex, the brain of reason and intelligence, for doing so releases a flood of neurotransmitters that are essential to sensuality and bring about a state of confidence, daring and harmony. As he puts it: “Let us then convert our brain so it will seduce, live, and help to construct the man to be selected. It is the only chance for survival our species has.” Hagège’s take on neurology, evolution and the place of reason in the history of Western civilization occupies a substantial portion of this curious opus, which also features conversations with potential cosmetic-surgery patients, long letters from former patients, analysis of the charms of bygone movie stars and some criticism of the misleading visions of ideal beauty presented in advertising. Oddly, tucked into the back is a short, semi-technical piece on the maintenance of a cervicofacial lift.

Reading or attempting to read this ponderous and pretentious treatise will not help the ambivalent woman come to a decision about cosmetic surgery, but it may well induce some beauty sleep.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2005

ISBN: 1-59051-121-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...


Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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