“Sin boldly,” Luther proclaimed. The only flaw in this bold interpretation, and one by design, is that it is too short. A...

MARTIN LUTHER

A noted Lutheran historian turns to the founder of his faith, delivering a thoughtful portrait of a complex, controversial figure.

“I will begin with Luther’s birth and end his story at his death, largely leaving to others the accounts of his posthumous influence and its global consequences,” writes Marty (Politics, Religion, and the Common Good, 2000, etc.). So he does, and if he goes lightly on the revolutions and wars that Luther (1483–1546) touched off with his radical reshaping of the church, Marty gives a careful accounting of the man. One constant in Luther’s life seems to have been a rather dark view of humankind, and perhaps even of God: his parents were harsh disciplinarians; his schoolteachers assured him and his classmates that “Jesus the Son of God would judge them after their death,” and “in school Luther lived in terror of the ‘wolf,’ the classmate charged to tattle weekly on the children and finger them as candidates for physical punishment”; the young Catholic monk Luther and his mentor, Vicar General Johannes von Staupitz, “inhabited a universe in which they thought a threatening God kept a suspicious eye on every human act.” Whence, perhaps, Luther’s keen interest in hellfire and damnation, and with the problem of Everyman’s working out his own salvation—and without the vehicle of priestly indulgence, which allowed the well-off to “become complacent about their situation before God. They would feel that they could sin and not fear purgatorial punishment.” Marty portrays Luther as both conservative and radical, as torn by doubts and pained by illness—yet resolute in his devotion to ecclesiastical reform and his belief that the personal search for salvation was far more important than the “papal and imperial threats” he faced over most of his theological career. Throughout, Marty does not shy from unpleasant questions, notably Luther’s anti-Semitism; nor does he fail to point out inconsistencies and paradoxes in the Lutheran legacy.

“Sin boldly,” Luther proclaimed. The only flaw in this bold interpretation, and one by design, is that it is too short. A fine brief on a world-changing figure.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2004

ISBN: 0-670-03272-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2003

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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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