The singularly uninspired account of how agnostic sportswriter Bryan (Dogleg Madness, 1988) entered a fundamentalist seminary, studied and argued over the Bible, joined a missionary expedition to El Salvador—and found his life unchanged. Bryan spent the spring term of 1989 in residence at Criswell College in Dallas, a stronghold of Southern Baptist conservatism. His stated purpose was investigative rather than theological: He was interested in fundamentalism, intended to write a book on the subject, and wanted to know more about it. The reality turned out to be more complex than he had imagined. His classmates were quite likable, by and large, and his teachers (despite the precision of their creed) were remarkably open. Their obvious, almost single- minded dedication to biblical Christianity fascinated Bryan, who had abandoned Methodism in his youth and seems never to have found an adequate substitute. Throughout, he compares them with ``liberal Christians'' (who, he says, try to accommodate their faith within the framework of modern philosophy) and credits them with more consistency and passion. More than once, Bryan claims, he was tempted to present himself for baptism, and in a Catholic church in El Salvador he began to understand the reality conveyed by the ideas of ``sin'' and ``redemption.'' His story remains essentially voyeuristic throughout, however, because at no point does he seem willing to meet his classmates on their own terms. His skepticism is never relinquished long enough to make his encounter with theism seem like more than a diversion, and this undermines the significance of the whole undertaking. A disappointing tale, which tries without much success to provide new insights on an unfamiliar world.

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-57509-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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 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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