A well-researched, sympathetic biography of the self-effacing pontiff who steered the Roman Catholic Church through the tumult of Vatican II. Legend has it that, as Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, Paul VI (1897-1978) was upbraided by Pope John XXIII for his ``Hamlet'' tendencies, and, indeed, during his own 15-year pontificate, Paul often suffered by comparison with his ebullient predecessor. But Hebblethwaite (In the Vatican, 1986, etc.), an ex- Jesuit and Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, persuasively argues that Paul was ``the most naturally talented man to become pope in this century.'' Intellectual (the son of a liberal Italian journalist), friendly in one-to-one encounters, and unusually knowledgeable about the non-Catholic world, the young Montini became a valued aide of Pius XII in the Vatican's Secretariat of State, where he witnessed firsthand the Church's battles against Fascism and Communism. But after 18 years of selfless service, he unaccountably fell from favor and was kicked upstairs with an appointment as Archbishop of Milan. It was under John XXIII that Paul finally became a cardinal and, Hebblethwaite shows, the architect of the agenda that kept the Second Vatican Council from spiralling out of control. Paul's achievements as pontiff (ecumenical outreach to alienated churches; reform of the conservative Curia; greater expansion of the role of women in the Church; the balancing of collegial discussion with papal authority) are weighed against what the author sees as his mistakes (the bans on birth control and clerical matrimony; inability to disentangle messy Vatican finances, resulting posthumously in the Sindona banking scandal). Using interviews and a wealth of unpublished material, Hebblethwaite depicts Paul as a ``good and holy man,'' tireless missionary, eloquent advocate for the poor, and—despite the carping of later critics (and unlike Pope John Paul II)—a comparative font of tolerance toward dissenting theologians. An insightful account of a pope who rose above his deep self- doubts to become a pivotal figure in religious—and contemporary- -history.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8091-0461-X

Page Count: 752

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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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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