A moving look at the human search for communion with God at perhaps its most extreme.



Gripping tale of five young men who entered Catholicism’s most rigorous contemplative monastic order.

Founded in 1084, the Carthusian order remained virtually unchanged through the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s, declares Maguire, scholar-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library. (It is now slightly more democratic, though post–Vatican II members do not generally consider the changes substantial.) Emphasizing prayer, members of the order led very individual lives, speaking rarely, living austerely and having virtually no contact with the world outside the monastery’s walls. Drawing upon copious letters, e-mails, conversations with former and current members of the order and several nearly unprecedented visits to the English Carthusian monastery of Parkminster, Maguire recreates the personal stories of five men who entered Parkminster in 1960 and 1961. Her goal is “to capture this slice of history that had been frozen in time for nearly 1,000 years.” She does that and more. Her interwoven accounts of the five Parkminster novices convey a deep engagement with their emotional struggles as they grappled month after month with an enclosed world of solitude and silence, encountering, for the most part, only their deepest selves and God. As Maguire describes the psychological pressures that mounted upon these five men, driving some near to madness, the reader comes to understand better the concept of the contemplative lifestyle, and what it demands and promises. The author opens the monastery door, providing a vivid account of the order’s lifestyle and worship, while also exploring the inner struggles of that life.

A moving look at the human search for communion with God at perhaps its most extreme.

Pub Date: March 30, 2006

ISBN: 1-58648-327-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2006

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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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