A crisp and spirited argument for the near-total separation of church and state, by a former New York federal judge (Partisan Justice, 1980). Though Frankel seems defensive about the pamphletlike length of this book, its considerable charm is due in no small part to its brevity. It is a ``thumbnail history'' of the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment, plus a ``sketch'' of recent church/state cases decided by the Supreme Court. The author has a sharp viewpoint and a precise and often witty pen. He begins by debunking the myth that American democracy was founded on the colonists' Christianity, noting surprisingly that they were ``relative[ly] indifferen[t] toward religion.'' According to Frankel, America was conceived as a secular nation, and for the most part, the modern Supreme Court has fortified the wall between church and state, forbidding nonsectarian silent prayers in public schools, striking down Florida ordinances outlawing Santer°a's animal sacrifices, and refusing to permit a group of Satmar Hasidic Jews to carve out a school district within their religious community in order to receive public funds for special education. But Frankel also criticizes the Court for permitting the city of Pawtucket, R.I., to display a cräche on public property, and the city of Pittsburgh a menorah; he prefers a simple, absolute rule forbidding even the most benign endorsement of religion by government. He blasts the Court's implication that it might endorse intentionally vague ``moment of silence'' laws in public schools, and he deplores the Court's upholding of the conviction of Rev. Sun Myung Moon for filing false tax returns (whether a bank account belonged to him or to his tax-exempt church was a close question that, like all close questions, ``should be decided for freedom''). Ultimately, this is a case for tolerance for all religions, even those unrepresented by majoritarian government—and for irreligion, too. A rare work that successfully distills a whole philosophical debate into a few accessible pages.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8090-4377-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1994

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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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