Intelligent and intellectually provocative, though also respectful: a notable example of fine writing on religion.

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DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?

RELIGIOUS CALLING, THE PRIESTHOOD, AND MY FATHER

A 60ish father’s surprising desire to become an Episcopal priest catalyzes this thoughtful debut, an exploration of what constitutes a religious “calling” and what role faith plays in life.

Magazine editor Proctor’s father, a music theory professor, was raised a Catholic and spent a year in seminary before marrying her mother, who is Jewish. The couple divorced when Proctor was a teenager, and she considers herself to be a secular Jew—an unacceptable definition, she learned, after consulting an eminent Jewish scholar who sternly declared, “Jews believe in God.” The author was astonished when her father, remarried and living in Ohio with his new family, told her that he wanted to be an Episcopalian priest. Then, while she was still adjusting to this news, he called to say that his application had been remanded. According to the “Vocations Committee,” a group composed of a priest and two parishioners in good standing that employs a process called “discernment” to determine whether the applicant has a genuine calling and is able to express it convincingly, he needed to “work on the articulation of his calling.” Already intrigued by her father’s intentions and his regrets about his past behavior, Proctor decided to investigate what exactly an acceptable “calling” is, how the discernment process works, and the history of both the priesthood and ordination. Studying such noted religious writers as Karen Armstrong, Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, she also talked to male and female clerics, nuns, monks and a range of Jewish scholars. The closing pages here show her father still uncertain how to proceed, but Proctor has eloquently distilled all she learned about religion and faith. Though her father stands center-stage, he and her family’s past play secondary roles to her sensitive examination of profound ideas with universal relevance.

Intelligent and intellectually provocative, though also respectful: a notable example of fine writing on religion.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-670-03326-X

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2004

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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 MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

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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