In Final Analysis (1990), Masson attacked those who trained him as a psychoanalyst. Now, in a kind of prequel, he seeks to debunk Paul Brunton, a pioneering popularizer of Eastern thought who for years was the live-in guru to Masson's childhood family. Masson's impulse to illuminate shadowy spiritual practices goes awry, however, because Brunton appears here as gentle and forgiving, while Masson seems suspiciously vengeful—a Harvard- educated bully picking on a frail, self-educated old man who once tried to help him. When Masson was five, growing up affluent in postwar California, his father, a restless, spirituality-aspiring gem dealer, found a guru in Brunton, a slightly built European who'd authored several popular books about the spiritual life. Brunton was elusive about his real background, telling young Jeffrey that he'd been born on Venus and had attended ``Astral University.'' The guru claimed to have been sent to America for a great, secret purpose, and he dwelt in a fantastic world of spiritual conspiracies, of battles between light and darkness. The end of the family's infatuation with Brunton began in 1956, when the teacher became convinced that WW III would break out in the early 60's. He persuaded the Massons to uproot their lives and to seek refuge in South America—but he never followed them. From Uruguay, Masson went to study at Harvard; there, encountering the hard, slow work of real study, he began to see Brunton's stature as a figment of his own imagination. At age 26, Masson exposed Brunton in an act of fraud (``I am, I finally realize, unusually sensitive to pretense, fraudulence, and lack of truthfulness,'' crows Masson here)—only to see Brunton act almost relieved not to have to play the role of guru anymore. Masson eloquently portrays the pretense and vanity of a would- be spiritual teacher, but it seems that he doth protest too much- -and, not for the first time, his words come off as more arrogant than wise.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-201-56778-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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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 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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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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