Interesting history, inadequate autobiography.




A journalist’s memories and musings on religion in America.

Woodward (The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, 2001, etc.), who spent nearly four decades as the editor of Newsweek’s Religion section, looks back on the faith landscape of the United States since his childhood in the 1940s. He comes to his subject matter with a unique background as a broad-based observer of religious trends and practices across a spectrum of American society for several decades. However, as he tries to venture out from pure journalism toward memoir, an otherwise laudable book often feels overly laden with a good-old-days attitude. Woodward begins with a review of society in the postwar years, during which he came of age. As an Ohio Catholic, he saw diversity not in terms of race but in terms of religion. He often risks utilizing his own experience as a norm from which to understand the era. Moving from college at Notre Dame and graduate school in Iowa, he took his first reporting job in Omaha before moving on to Newsweek. Almost accidentally, as a Catholic in the waning days of the Second Vatican Council, he was placed on the religion beat and stayed there throughout his career. This role allowed him to meet fascinating people, ranging from Billy Graham to Hillary Clinton, and to be present for immense cultural sea changes as diverse as the march on Montgomery and the rise of the religious right. Woodward’s Catholic background colors a great deal of his perspectives on religion; Protestantism is always seen as a foreign entity, as is Judaism and other religions. The author also sometimes sounds like a cranky anachronism. From his consistent and jarring use of the term “Negro” to his epilogue, which focuses on the shortcomings of younger generations in today’s America, the aging journalist often seems stuck in the past.

Interesting history, inadequate autobiography.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90739-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Convergent/Crown

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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