LONG QUIET HIGHWAY

WAKING UP IN AMERICA

Goldberg, author of two popular Zen-inspired writing guides (Wild Mind, 1990; Writing Down the Bones, 1986), tells in simple, dead-honest prose the story of her ``awakening'' to writing and to life. ``Americans,'' Goldberg says, ``see writing as a way to break through their own inertia and become awake, to connect with their deepest selves.'' This way works, she insists, but ``it is hard. It is a long quiet highway.'' Goldberg's highway began on Long Island, where her father ran a bar, her mother went on diets, and the future author had the good fortune to have one Mr. Clemente in high school. One day Mr. Clemente turned off the lights and asked Goldberg and the rest of her class to listen to the rain: ``That one moment carried me a long way into my life.'' After attending George Washington University, Goldberg went to graduate school in New Mexico. There, while teaching an unruly class of Mexican and Native American kids, she felt her heart open—an experience that nothing in her study of literature had prepared her for. She headed for the Lama Foundation, a nonsectarian spiritual center, and then to Boulder, where she studied poetry with Allen Ginsberg and took Buddhist vows. Finally, she married and moved to Minneapolis, where she met Katagiri Roshi, the slight, unpretentious Zen teacher who was to have a defining impact on her life. Katagiri told her that writing could take her as far as Zen could if she made her practice deep enough, and he helped her to see that, for her, the direct, bare-bones way was best. A resonant book that will appeal to, and likely help, all who believe that life can be a spiritual adventure. One gripe: The cadence of Goldberg's writing gets monotonous. Isn't it possible to be ``awake'' and yet experiment with more intricate prose structures?

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-553-07245-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

more