Lambent prose and a general lack of self-indulgence characterize these essays on the Catholic canon of saints. Each of the 20 contemporary authors whom FSG assistant editor Elie has assembled here centers his or her contribution on a particular holy man or woman—usually a saint for whom they were named or whom they have adopted as a patron. The Catholic experience predominates, but Elie intersperses other perspectives. After a serviceable introduction by Robert Coles, Bruce Bawer sets the pace with a fine essay on St. Francis of Assisi, artfully stitching a biographical account with a personal meditation on the lessons he teaches. Kathryn Harrison follows with a forceful tale of how her namesake, St. Catherine, inspired in her an anorectic self-abnegation. Literary types may be impressed by Richard Bausch's epiphany of Thomas Aquinas as paragon both of faith and of the modern spirit—achieved, Bausch lets us know, through the mediation of his friend Walker Percy. Francine Prose writes about Saint Teresa of vila by focusing on the seemingly unlikely notion of irony; Tobias Wolff, in contrast, presents a most straightforward saint, the adventurous Jean de BrÇbeuf, martyred among the North American Indians. Also in the Americas, Enrique Fern†ndez discusses Cuba's santer°a religion, an Afro-Caribbean form of saint worship that provides an interesting counterpoint to the more traditional Christianity under discussion elsewhere. Editor Elie builds a summa of sainthood around his recent encounter with the figure of Doubting Thomas, in the form of a Renaissance bronze of Thomas with Christ. A critique of the official Church sanction of canonization comes in Martin E. Marty's look at the still unsanctified Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Valuable for inspiration, but also for information—the details of the lives and deaths of many saints are here, refracted through 20 idiosyncratic, often powerful points of view.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-15-100101-4

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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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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