Supercilious at times and misanthropic throughout, but Rowlands offers an accessible, intriguing way to engage complex...




A unique human-animal friendship becomes the springboard and locus for exploring issues in metaphysics, ethics, existentialism, theodicy and human emotion.

Through philosophical reflections combined with a personal narrative of the ten-plus year period he lived with a wolf named Brenin, Rowlands (Philosophy/Univ. of Miami, Body Language, 2006, etc.) constructs both a memoir and a philosophical journal. Each chapter is packed with personal anecdotes—for example, the author and friends picking up girls at rugby parties with Brenin’s “help”—and with philosophical explorations ranging from notions of time, consciousness and freedom to ideas regarding malice, evil and death. Rowlands also investigates humankind’s supposed obsession with feelings and sets out to redefine, or at least re-envision, such emotions as happiness, love and pleasure. His knowledge of the Western philosophical tradition is rich, ranging from Aristotle through Hobbes, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein and Sartre. The author’s presentation of difficult philosophical concepts and of more general human experience is keen and readable, though his insights are often profoundly misanthropic. The narrative is alternately humorous and affecting, even self-deprecating at times, but the tone can also be arrogant, self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing. This creates an odd and largely duplicitous kind of irony, since Rowlands’ primary impulse seems to be an attempt to reveal the depravity of human nature. Wolf and canine qualities are privileged throughout the text, albeit in compelling and convincing ways. The author learns from Brenin, for example, that “in happiness, pleasant and unpleasant aspects form an indissoluble whole.” The wolf is the real teacher in this relationship.

Supercilious at times and misanthropic throughout, but Rowlands offers an accessible, intriguing way to engage complex philosophical ideas.

Pub Date: April 8, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-60598-033-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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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 20, 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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