Forceful, challenging, and at times sublimely ridiculous.

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THE PROPHETS

WHO THEY WERE, WHAT THEY ARE

Influential critic (editor of Commentary for 30 years), neoconservative figurehead, and one-time Hebrew scholar revisits the “poetry” of the biblical prophets.

In addressing nonbelievers as well as Christians and Jews, Podhoretz (My Love Affair with America, 2000, etc.) chooses to quote primarily from the King James Version (1611) of the Old Testament because of its approximation of both the meter and meaning of the Hebrew Bible, itself an original amalgam of Semitic and Greek texts. “I am not a very good Jew,” the author acknowledges, “as measured by the very limited extent to which I observe the Commandments of Judaism; nor do I think that the world was created about 6,000 years ago in only six days.” Nonetheless, he finds the growing body of scientific evidence that undermines the Bible’s historicity an irksome impediment to be brushed aside, hoping almost wistfully that future discoveries might reverse this erosion. His passion and reverence, however, for the actual (in his view) personages and prophetic literature that inhabit the roughly half-millennium accounted for in the first five books (The Pentateuch) of the Bible are undiminished. His interpretations and commentaries, replete with references to the significant minutiae of recent scholarship, rabbinical doctrines, and linguistic subtleties, comprise an extraordinary intellectual exercise. For example: in Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac at God’s command, Podhoretz finds not merely a test of faith but the “first shot fired” against idolatry. This refrain builds to a crescendo as the political Podhoretz finally elbows the literati offstage and delivers a polemic on creeping anomy in American culture that—and he means it—invites God’s judgment against us. America’s idolatry is worship of the self, the author concludes, condemning liberal utopianism, feminism (for—by implication—contributing to higher teen suicide rates), and even the environmental movement (for repudiating God’s placement, in Genesis, of man above the animals).

Forceful, challenging, and at times sublimely ridiculous.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-7432-1927-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2002

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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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