A brilliant, challenging contribution to the history of ideas.

CONFESSIONS OF THE FLESH

THE HISTORY OF SEXUALITY, VOLUME 4

The long-awaited culmination of the noted historian and philosopher’s multivolume work on human sexuality.

It has long been rumored that acolytes of Foucault, who died in 1984, would complete a work that the scholar intended to remain incomplete, having publicly stated that he wanted no posthumous publications. While it is true, writes Gros, that some of the draft work in the History of Sexuality series will not be published, the present volume was substantially complete. The subject is largely the “problematization of the flesh by the Christian fathers,” involving exegetical and teleological leaps. Following the teachings of second-century apologist Justin, it is dogma that one has sex only to produce children. This being a Foucauldian investigation, there are fascinating wrinkles and arcana aplenty. In the case of Justin, for instance, sex figures in a long catalog of “a code for living,” one that includes what one should drink, what sorts of shoes and jewelry are appropriate to Christians, what kind of furniture one should buy, etc. For his part, Clement of Alexandria and other theologians further the insistence that sex is for procreation, but again with a wrinkle, namely the “seemingly rather arbitrary distinction that Clement introduces between the generation of progeny, which must be the ‘goal’ of sexual relations, and the value of having descendants, which must be its ‘end.’ ” Foucault also explores how Adam and Eve must have been virgins, according to Augustine and others, operating along the lines of sexual magic that incorporates parthenogenesis, while the sexual act followed by later humans is an aspect of a “paroxysmal bloc” that binds together “sex, truth, and law.” That bloc was also closely monitored, surrounded by prescriptions and proscriptions, and governed by “a very precise codification of the moments, the initiatives, the invitations, the acceptances, the refusals, the positions, the gestures, the caresses, even the words…that can take place in sexual relations.”

A brilliant, challenging contribution to the history of ideas.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4803-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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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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