An occasionally long-winded but intriguing glimpse at one of Christianity’s great treasures.

KINGS OF THE GRAIL

DISCOVERING THE TRUE LOCATION OF THE CUP OF CHRIST IN MODERN-DAY SPAIN

An academic exposé on the famed cup of Christ.

Torres Sevilla (Medieval History/Univ. of León) and Ortega del Río claim to have proven the identity of the true grail, the cup with which Jesus Christ and his Apostles shared wine at the Last Supper. This highly sought-after relic has captured the imaginations of Christians for nearly two millennia, spawning a wealth of art, literature, and, in recent decades, film. Though the authors couch their findings in the fanfare befitting such a unique artifact, in reality, the story of the grail is rather bland. If the authors are correct, then the grail spent its first millennium in Jerusalem and its second in Spain, only occasionally coming out of the shadows. The authors begin with an unreasonably lengthy introduction to early Christianity before finally noting, “We have to wait until 400 CE to find the first direct reference [to the chalice].” Readers are left to wonder what, aside from tradition, points to this particular cup as being the genuine grail. The authors appear to accept this on faith, and they take up the story from there: “The Cup physically resided in the Holy Sepulchre from the fifth century, where it would remain until the eleventh century.” The authors then move on to a dizzying examination of Muslim dynasties that both threatened and trumpeted the grail, until it was given as a gift to the Emir of Dénia, in southeastern Spain, who eventually presented it to the King of León in the 1050s. It remains in León to this day. A shard cut off the cup and used by Saladin as a curative for his daughter provides one of the few other twists to this tale. A detailed description of the cup, now bedecked with an outer chalice of gold and jewels, and a refutation of other contenders for the title of the true grail, round out the book.

An occasionally long-winded but intriguing glimpse at one of Christianity’s great treasures.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4683-1135-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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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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