An outspoken wordsmith offers more intelligent, humorous and against-the-grain perspectives.


Jillette (God, No!, 2011, etc.) nails holidays with sarcasm and sensibility.

When the author’s opening chapter skewers the Christmas classic “Joy to the World” as a schlocky, joyless yuletide anthem, readers will recognize who and what they’re reading. What follows are chapters of mixed-focus essays; some are rambling, some are supremely anecdotal, and others acerbically mock Christian beliefs and steamroll religious politicians. Jillette allows readers a glimpse into his personal life with side chapters on a Houdini-influenced upbringing in Massachusetts, a quirky bath-taking obsession in his 20s, the rise of Penn & Teller from high school buddies to internationally popular stage magicians, and some rather bloated narration about an extortion attempt. Additionally, there’s insider commentary of his time on The Celebrity Apprentice (“junior high with a better brand of acne cover up”), an in-depth discussion on his atheistic orientation, lessons learned from an acrimonious interview with Piers Morgan and thoughtful ruminations on gay rights and his two children. Jillette is strongest when poking fun at his own foibles and in a touching, posthumous nod to friendships with author Christopher Hitchens and rock drummer Tommy Ardolino. As an unrepentant nonbeliever in organized religion, Jillette’s message may come off as snide and profane, but to the open-minded, his words are funny, dignified and make perfect sense.

An outspoken wordsmith offers more intelligent, humorous and against-the-grain perspectives.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-16156-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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