Refreshingly colloquial account of a spiritual journey complete with “ups and downs. Some open highway, and, um, lots of...


MY PERILOUS, FUMBLING QUEST FOR THE CELESTIAL CITY’s “Sick Soul” columnist wryly explores the strange vagaries of belief.

Spalding does not move among deeply compelling religious figures, but rather consorts with the strangely entertaining and, often enough, the sideshow halt and lame. He’s not looking for future saints, but rather to see how religious views, no matter how peculiar, shape the holders’ lives and make them tick. So he shoves off like Bunyan's pilgrim to see what he may see, which includes a night with the Christian Wrestling Federation: “big guys with big mouths . . . who look like extras in a prison film”—not unlike their secular peers, in fact, except for their exhortations on Jesus’ behalf. Spalding also meets the Jesus lookalike, Whatsyourname, who “somehow inspires an amazing, spontaneous display of faith in Christ without seeming to challenge anyone’s reason,” and runs across a guy who feels that his uncanny ability to hit lottery numbers is the result of a special interest looking over his shoulder. The author drops in on the Garden of Eden, the Holy Land Experience, and Las Vegas, where he visits with the Strip's chaplain, whose responsibilities include administering the last rites to skydiving Elvis impersonators whose chutes don't deploy. He makes house calls with a ghostbuster and is given the dismaying news that “ghosts are, well, I don't know if stupid is the right word, but hardheaded. Immature.” Perhaps most spiritually, or at least most questingly, he makes the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, with all “its hardships and weirdness, its thrills and unexpected pleasures.” What do these experiences reveal to Spalding? If nothing else, “they clarify who or what we are not, [showing] a set of beliefs to which, we can then safely say, we do or do not subscribe.”

Refreshingly colloquial account of a spiritual journey complete with “ups and downs. Some open highway, and, um, lots of toll booths.”

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-4653-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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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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