Sure to kick up some biblical dust: a graphic, instructional story unlikely to receive the Church’s imprimatur.

MARY

A FLESH-AND-BLOOD BIOGRAPHY OF THE VIRGIN MOTHER

A knowledgeable journalist profiles history’s most renowned Jewish mother, tracing a life barely touched upon in the gospels.

From the beginning, Hazelton (Driving to Detroit, 1998, etc.) asks for trouble. Her first words describe a pregnant, 13-year-old peasant girl clad in a torn linen shift, “short and wiry, with dark olive skin.” Maryam—her true name, the author asserts—probably never resided in the Temple, but she was instructed in the healing arts by her grandmother, a Wise Woman called Salome. (Hazleton takes it as a fair supposition that Maryam passed those arts to her son.) Gingerly approaching the central matter of the Virgin Birth, the author reviews the state of gynecology, the practice of contraception, and the mechanics of parturition 2,000 years ago. Was the doctrine of virginity simply a mistranslation of Matthew’s Septuagint? She thinks not, explaining the conception as a paradoxical mystery of religion, not physical fact. Hazleton skips the annunciation, skirts Matthew’s hint that Jesus may have had siblings, and suggests that Joseph probably acquired his role as Maryam’s consort and the physical dad in order to provide a Davidian lineage for Jesus. From his birth, the text quickly shifts to Maryam at his crucifixion, complete with all the grisly details about that form of execution. Thence to the burial and the resurrection, which “only makes sense on another level of knowledge, one that supersedes the factual.” The facts, however, remain fascinating, while the novelistic suppositions are pure dramaturgy, as uncanonical as the Sibylline Oracles. The biography takes a decided feminist turn as Hazleton ascribes the new religion’s establishment to the women who followed the son of Maryam. This Mary isn’t the blue-robed icon painted by Fra Angelico or the young mother carved by Michelangelo, but throughout it all, Maryam remains full of grace.

Sure to kick up some biblical dust: a graphic, instructional story unlikely to receive the Church’s imprimatur.

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58234-236-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2004

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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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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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