Regrettably, this story of close-mindedness and redemption still resonates today.

OUT OF THE FLAMES

THE REMARKABLE STORY OF MICHAEL SERVETUS AND ONE OF THE RAREST BOOKS IN THE WORLD

The tale of a 16th-century genius who made the mistake of running afoul of John Calvin at the height of the Reformation in Geneva.

Adding a fourth title to their shelf of writings on the provenance of rare books, the Goldstones (Warmly Inscribed, 2001, etc.) here focus on Spaniard Michael Servetus’s Christianismi Restitutio (Christianity Restored). All copies of the book, including one chained to his leg, were supposed to be destroyed when Servetus was burned at the stake, on Calvin’s orders, after his intellectual enemy failed to browbeat him into accepting an alternate view of Protestantism. Servetus’s rejection of the Trinity first gained him the label of heretic in his early 20s when his other principal foe, the Inquisition, put a price on his head. The authors use Servetus’s career to give readers a snapshot of intellectual life during the 1500s. In a Europe whose civil authorities couldn’t easily track their own citizens, whose universities were exploding with debates over church doctrine, and whose printing presses sought to publish heretical books because they sold well, punchy but pious iconoclast Servetus was a representative man like no other. Besides going toe to toe with the giants of his day, he also discovered pulmonary circulation, the process by which the lungs supply oxygen to the blood, which is then moved throughout the body via the pumping of the heart. The passage meticulously describing this process is a throwaway in Christianismi Restitutio, but the authors argue that if Calvin hadn’t been so vengeful, Servetus might have eventually advertised his discovery and moved medicine forward by almost a century. We owe its survival to Unitarianism, the religion for which his work laid the foundations. Unitarians in Transylvania somehow retained a copy of Christianismi Restitutio, keeping Servetus’s spirit alive for centuries.

Regrettably, this story of close-mindedness and redemption still resonates today.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2002

ISBN: 0-7679-0836-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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