A piercing course in sensitivity training to build a moral community upon re-entry into society. For a similar but more...



Sherman (Philosophy/Georgetown Univ.; The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of Our Soldiers, 2010, etc.) describes the many and varied struggles for inner pace after returning from war.

The author speaks to readers of those veterans with trouble reintegrating with civilian life upon return from the war front and our moral responsibility to bring some measure of understanding and engagement to them. She examines topics that are uncomfortable but undeniable—e.g., “feelings of alienation and disengagement,” “resentment or disappointment or visual dislocation,” and “profound moral dislocation and a consequent slipping of connectedness with family.” Sherman brings into the light the hellish experiences of both men and women in theaters of war, experiences that do not dissipate after leaving. She grasps and presents these vignettes via philosophy and psychology. She calls on a host of thinkers for guidance, including David Hume, Aristotle and Immanuel Kant, noting how “ancient stories, like that of Philoctetes, are our own stories through which to understand betrayal and the possibilities for trust’s renewal.” Sherman offers insightful emotional inquiries into the loss or turning from identity, the loss of dignity, the shame on top of guilt, gender betrayals, the what-ifs and could-haves, shadow feelings, and the overwhelming senses of sadness and futility. The twists and turns into a soldier’s post-traumatic renewal are complicated but essential to follow—e.g., the attachment involved in double transference, in which a familial relationship is mirrored in a professional one and where self-esteem leaks in via “a reciprocal positive moral address of trust and hope.” Readers will learn about the years veterans devote to therapeutic self-empathy and the rekindling of trust, and Sherman successfully invokes sympathy for their causes—even if the language is occasionally academic in nature.

A piercing course in sensitivity training to build a moral community upon re-entry into society. For a similar but more character-driven tale, see Helen Thorpe’s Soldier Girls (2014).

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-19-932527-6

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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 19, 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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