OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT

RITUAL, MAGIC, AND INITIATION IN THE LIFE OF AN AFRICAN SHAMAN

This autobiography vividly describes the author's loss and rediscovery of his cultural and religious heritage. Burkina Faso was still a French colony when SomÇ was born in 1956. At the age of four he was taken from his village by the local Jesuit missionary, who had persuaded his father that he should study for the priesthood. SomÇ begins his account with a description of his early years in the village and his relationship with his grandfather, a powerful elder and medicine man. In the middle section, he deals with the painful years at school and junior seminary. He and his companions were forbidden all reference to their native language and customs, including use of their tribal names, and were victimized by incidents of sadistic cruelty inflicted by the priests and their native assistants. When he was 20 SomÇ was involved in a fight with a priest, after which he fled the seminary and returned to his village. There the elders decided that he should undergo the men's initiation ceremony, normally carried out at puberty. The book's final third describes this extraordinary six-week experience, a dramatic encounter with the psyche that involved, among other things, being buried alive. (Several young men apparently died during the ceremony.) Afterwards the village elders divined that SomÇ should return to offer whites the wisdom and healing they need. To read this book is to be immersed in a fascinating world of spirits, symbolism, and magic, yet the author leaves some unresolved contradictions. His claim, for example, that the Jesuits ``kidnapped'' him is not borne out by his text, and he does not seem to have really lived the harsh village life that he eulogizes. Nor does SomÇ address the crucial question of whether and how traditional ways can flourish in anything but the tribal context. Rservations aside, a beautifully written and personal story that grapples with questions of identity and tradition that affect us all.

Pub Date: May 10, 1994

ISBN: 0-87477-762-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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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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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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