Once intriguingly controversial, Spong is now tediously irrelevant.

Tiring attack on the “ancient, sacred, and mythological book we call the Bible.”

Though former Episcopal bishop Spong (Eternal Life: A New Vision, 2009, etc.) claims to have had a “longtime love affair” with the Bible, it is hard to see that in this book-by-book attack upon the Old and New Testaments. The author makes it clear that he sees the Bible as at best a collection of heavily edited myths and allegories, at worst an outright lie. Spong’s stated purpose of introducing modern higher criticism of the Bible to ordinary readers seems laudable, but he fails to pull it off. He does not effectively introduce biblical criticism to those who might actually believe the Bible. Instead of building a bridge of understanding, he challenges readers to leap across a canyon from ignorance to enlightenment. Spong shows no interest in compromise; rather, he judges as deluded or silly those readers who believe that anything in the Bible is literal or based on historical fact. The author doesn’t seem to comprehend or care that the world is far from “non-religious,” and his book is geared toward those who are already at the cusp of disbelief. Though many of his ideas are already well-known arguments, Spong also includes theories of his own—e.g., the Apostle Paul was “a deeply repressed gay man”; basically nothing in the Gospel of John should be taken literally. The author is so lost in refuting scripture that he has forgotten what that scripture’s tie to real people even is.

Once intriguingly controversial, Spong is now tediously irrelevant.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0062011282

Page Count: 432

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998



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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