Good-guy liberals stave off defeat from conservative authority figures in this depressing look at a progressive parish, which Naughton (Taking to the Air: The Rise of Michael Jordan, 1992) sees as a microcosm of the conflicts within American Catholicism. Holy Trinity Parish in Washington, D.C., attended by celebrities such as Senator Ted Kennedy and Dee Dee Myers, is soft on doctrinal orthodoxy and seldom refers to the Church's moral teachings about abortion, homosexuality, and contraception. Naughton, a former reporter for the New York Times and Washington Post and himself a parishioner, offers a detailed account of the parish, beginning in the spring of 1992 and covering the tense period when the appointment of a new pastor threatened to upset the status quo of dissent from Vatican authority. Naughton tells us, for example, about the activities of the Working Groups on Sexism and how Ray McGovern insisted on standing throughout Mass as a protest in favor of women's ordination. Although Naughton's narrative is full of vignettes and the personalities of individual priests and parishioners, his ideological thrust is always to the fore. He scorns the traditional Mass for its ``turgid solemnity,'' compared with the ``boisterous'' worship at Holy Trinity. Naughton makes no pretense of evenhandedness: The pope represents a distant bureaucratic power structure with little moral or doctrinal credibility; there is no attempt to acknowledge John Paul II's far-reaching critique of free-market capitalism. As Naughton himself confesses, the conflict he has with the hierarchy has ``the libidinal urge'' at the root of almost every issue. By the end of the book we find that many of Naughton's ``progressives'' are no longer Catholics, and the pastor is off exploring options in Los Angeles's gay scene. Holy Trinity hardly qualifies as a typical Catholic parish, and Naughton's penchant for crude polarization ensures a superficial treatment of the issues he raises.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-201-62458-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

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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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