The latest addition—succeeding The Irony of It All (1986)— to the projected four-volume survey of 20th-century American religion by the well-known Univ. of Chicago historian (Religion and the Republic, 1987; Pilgrims in Their Own Land, 1984, etc.). ``Will America remain Protestant and Anglo-Saxon?'' According to Marty, this was the central question of the period between the world wars, posed by old-stock Americans and immigrant newcomers alike. Marty sees many of the distinctive movements of these years—the Red scare, labor-union unrest, Prohibition, nativism—as reactions of a native-born (and usually provincial) populace that feared the incipient power of the new ethnic groups. The arrival of Catholics and Jews in great numbers during the 19th and early 20th centuries threatened the privileged position of the Protestant churches in public life, and elicited such disparate responses as ecumenism, the ``Social Gospel,'' and the Ku Klux Klan. Marty is at his best when writing from the perspective of the Protestant majority (as in his account of the struggle between the ``modernist'' and the ``fundamentalist'' sects), but he does not limit himself to the experience of those churches—and gives, for example, a fascinating history of the Zionist movement among American Jews. He is far less sure of himself when covering the development of Catholicism during this period, however, and pays almost no attention to the Orthodox churches. Comprehensive and readable, but lacking depth: scholars will find surprisingly little analysis, and no new insights.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-226-50895-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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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 19, 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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