Courageous but flawed attempt by Woiwode (Indian Affairs, 1992, etc.) to examine Christian culture and his own faith in the light of Acts, ``the most overtly narrative book of the New Testament.'' Woiwode's grit lies in his willingness to discuss Christianity despite—as he hammers home—the bias against religion among America's cultural and academic elite. He ponders the task of the Christian writer and finds it, as did Dante, Tolstoy, and Eliot before him, to be a search for ``a way to live the life Christ calls us to live.'' The best compass here, says Woiwode, remains the Bible. Thus his interest in Acts, toward which he takes a Protestant approach (Woiwode is an rthodox Presbyterian), paring away doctrines that he sees as excrescences to get at the unvarnished revelation. His technique, a combination of common sense and writerly savvy that ignores biblical scholarship, gets him into trouble at times. For instance, while it's charming and even instructive to call Peter's account of Judas's suicide ``an elaboration, in a sophisticated accreting manner that would please a Robbe-Grillet,'' it's naive to believe that the numbers in Acts (e.g., 40 days as the span of Jesus' post-Resurrection appearances) must be literally true because, as Woiwode claims, Luke has a novelist's eye for factual detail: Such literalism ignores the different aims and methods of modern and ancient writers. Similar exegetic goofs pepper the text, but no matter; far more exciting is Woiwode's ability to connect the ancient dramas of Acts to modern life. In so doing, he plucks away at the nature of sin, baptism, miracle, and other issues, and tells of his own religious conversion and return to the land, always in the same shimmering prose that marks his fiction (``I pressed a footpedal that released a pyramid of fifteen finished bales, outlined white-gold in a sudden gate of sun''). Pretty shaky as scholarship—but a tough, moving personal testament.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-069404-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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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 19, 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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