THE AMERICAN HOUR

A TIME OF RECKONING AND THE ONCE AND FUTURE ROLE OF FAITH

A heartfelt and perceptive analysis of what Guinness (Visiting Fellow/The Brookings Institute; The Gravedigger File, 1983, etc.- -not reviewed) sees as the cultural crisis facing America today. Americans, says Guinness, view their country as much as a sacred creed as a physical place—but this creed, he contends, is dividing the nation much as slavery divided it during the Civil War. ``At a certain point,'' Guinness says, ``the dissolution of faith's authority and disappearance of any positive force for truth and goodness turns into a high-density, negative, and devouring force for evil—in short, nihilism.'' The author outlines the breakdown during the 60's of the previous decade's cultural consensus, and the reaction to this breakdown—selfishness and unproductive greed—during the 70's and 80's, calling for a reforged covenant, ``a modern form of `federal liberty' that combines the best, and avoids the worst, of the libertarian and communitarian visions.'' Guinness's blend of erudition—he quotes sources from Paul ValÇry to The Congressional Record—and insight are thought-provoking: He suggests, for instance, that the radicalism of the 60's was not so much a reaction to conservatism as a response to the failure and illusions of mainstream liberalism. Guinness vividly portrays the anomic state of the nation today and projects the future role of religion. But ``this is not a how-to book,'' he notes. Quite so: His brief prescriptive remarks, gathered under the rubrics of ``remembrance,'' ``repentance,'' ``resolution,'' ``responsibility,'' and ``realism,'' are unconvincing. At best, a sophisticated analysis of a very real crisis, and an earnest plea for America to face some home truths; at worst, an experience akin to suffering from the blur of a 350-page Op-Ed piece.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-02-913171-5

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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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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