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 Using interviews and a wealth of unpublished material, Hebblethwaite depicts Paul as a ``good and holy man,'' tireless missionary, eloquent advocate for the poor, and—despite the carping of later critics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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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.


The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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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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