Pulp critique of the ever-popular End Times.



Literary critic and publishing lawyer Kirsch (God Against the Gods, 2004, etc.) adds yet another volume to the sprawling corpus of work on the New Testament Book of Revelation.

Part biblical commentary, part socio-religious history, this study adds little to the field. Starting with a discussion of earlier Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature, the author moves into a commentary on Revelation itself. Here, he flounders. Kirsch consistently derides people throughout history for coming up with incorrect answers to the book’s mysteries, but he seems certain that his own interpretations are accurate. He sees Revelation as a statement about the times in which it was written, not as a work of prophecy. Thus, he declares, the book’s “mysteries” are merely coded references to Rome, Caesar, etc. It seems quite an act of hubris to boldly declare that there are obvious answers to one of history’s most mysterious and fervently argued-over texts. Kirsch’s flippant remarks are also off-putting: comparing emperor worship rituals to the Pledge of Allegiance, for instance, or competition among Roman cities for a temple honoring the emperor to competition over winning an NFL franchise. The author eventually moves on to the history of how Revelation has been interpreted and used and abused by Western Christianity. In this discussion, he is more competent, and his work is more useful. Beginning with early arguments over the text’s legitimacy, Kirsch goes on to describe Revelation’s influence on individual visionaries such as Hildegard of Bingen and its role in such historical movements as the Crusades and reforms of the papacy. Moving westward, he describes the unbridled impact Revelation has had in America, spawning entire new denominations and giving rise to sometimes frightening cult movements. He closes with a discussion of the apocalypse in the atomic era, as well as Revelation’s role in popular culture.

Pulp critique of the ever-popular End Times.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-081698-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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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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