A self-help book with a strong—but not heavy-handed—philosophical foundation.

MIDLIFE

A PHILOSOPHICAL GUIDE

A philosopher offers practical advice on how to navigate one’s way through middle age and beyond.

Setiya (Philosophy/MIT; Knowing Right from Wrong, 2015, etc.) serves as an engaging companion for those in the throes of the dreaded midlife crisis, as he brings the wisdom of the ages—from Gilgamesh to Aristotle and Plato to John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, and beyond—to bear on the contemporary malaise. Part of the problem is that the choices you have made by midlife have often closed the doors on all the other lives you might have lived. Another problem is that death looms, closer, and however you keep busy pales in comparison to contemplating the end. Yet another is that each task must come to an end, leading to more feelings of emptiness. Like Peggy Lee, “you have lived long enough to ask ‘Is that all there is?’ ” It may be enough, and should be, if you can adopt the proper philosophical perspective. Though Setiya quotes Montaigne—“to philosophize is to learn how to die”—he treats the topic in a tone that is warm, conversational, and surprisingly good-humored. We are all going to go through it, and we are all going to die: “If we could persuade ourselves that immortality is undesirable, we might be reconciled to death.” And the truth of immortality, along with the impossibility, is that it could well leave us bored and bitter; we might prefer a return to the state of nonbeing that preceded our birth, “the prior abyss.” The author counsels that even the most task-oriented must commit themselves to pleasures that he calls “existential,” ones that can’t be completed—e.g., listening to music, enjoying time with friends, meditating.

A self-help book with a strong—but not heavy-handed—philosophical foundation.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-17393-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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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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