CHASING GRACE

REFLECTIONS OF A CATHOLIC GIRL, GROWN UP

Manning, a clinical psychologist who wrote lyrically and humorously about her battle with depression in Undercurrents (1995), here offers by contrast the pedestrian memoir of a self- acclaimed casualty of Catholicism. Manning divides her book into short sections on such topics as ``Sin,'' ``Hell,'' and ``Absolution,'' breezing from one bland reflection to the next about Catholic girlhood. There's much stock scenery here: the tyrannical nuns and their heated warnings about the danger of boys looking up one's skirt; the brainwashing prolife lectures and scary films about childbirth; the lousy taste of the host at the First Communion. Sex was evil and impure: ``The fact that women who endured twelve to fourteen years of Catholic School are not all virgins or prostitutes is a miracle.'' The author skims the surface of the church's problems for (and with) women. Her text often seems more like the record of a pleasurable, meandering conversation among women exchanging anecdotes about their childhood than a measured, reflective study. Manning wants to be transgressive by speaking up as an enlightened woman, yet this is as G-rated as it comes. Her book lacks the irony, the wit, and certainly the richness of Mary McCarthy's memoir of Catholic girlhood, which was filled with twisted characters and real Gothic horrors, powerfully described. Manning's experiences sound mild by comparison. In fact, she seems so little held by her subject matter that she sometimes glides into curiously tangential vignettes: One night she follows a yuppie couple in the supermarket, seething resentfully as they select their gourmet items while she shuffles along with her fiscally challenged cart. Some of Manning's mild recollections might work at essay length; overall, the book lacks substance and freshness. ($50,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-251311-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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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 author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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