SISTERS IN ARMS

CATHOLIC NUNS THROUGH TWO MILLENNIA

An opinionated but reliable survey of the complex history of Roman Catholic nuns. McNamara (History/Hunter Coll.) knows how to make complex issues clear for a general audience. Throughout her ambitious narrative she pays close attention to the scholarly literature. But she does not allow the apparatus of scholarship to banish her own feminist point of view, or to overwhelm the story. What comes across most strongly in Sisters in Arms is the extraordinary tenacity of religious commitment women have made to the Church over the centuries, and the great difficulties they have faced in expressing a female point of view within an institution dominated by men. From the late Roman Empire to modern Latin America, nuns have been singled out for special discrimination within the church, and for special persecution by opponents outside the church. McNamara stresses the ways in which women have been empowered by celibacy and chastity, and have on rare occasions been able to transcend gender differences and work together with men as true equals. That point of view is so at odds with the dominant modern attitude toward sexuality that McNamara goes overboard in her search for historical illustrations in its defense. The result is a long book, made even longer by the author's commitment to fairness and balance. But readers who persevere will be rewarded with vivid reminders of the many ways that the problem of gender has been dealt with throughout Western history. More than a history of nuns, Sisters in Arms is a survey of how the Roman Catholic tradition has confronted the ever-present question of how to conceptualize the relationship between men and women.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1996

ISBN: 0-674-80984-X

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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 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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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

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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