McDonough and Bianchi avoid a facile progressive triumphalism and deal quite forthrightly with the tensions and difficulties...

PASSIONATE UNCERTAINTY

INSIDE THE AMERICAN JESUITS

A fascinating look at Catholicism’s most prestigious order in a time of change and confusion.

McDonough (Political Science/Arizona State Univ.) and Bianchi (Religion Emeritus/Emory Univ.) follow up McDonough’s history of American Jesuits in the 20th century (Men Astutely Trained, 1991) with this study of the order since the Second Vatican Council, a period when it has faced a massive decline in membership, an almost Copernican transformation of its spiritual personality, a realignment of its ministries, and a growing uncertainty about its future and its relation to the larger church. McDonough and Bianchi have surveyed 430 Jesuits and ex-Jesuits, ranging in age from 28 to 85, including lawyers, teachers, administrators, parish priests, and students in formation. Although the authors apply sophisticated social-scientific analysis to their data—the jargon is sometimes off-putting—their work allows us to listen to an amazing variety of Jesuit voices discussing the calculus of stress and satisfaction that keeps members in the order or prompts them to leave: their struggles with the church’s teachings on sex and the accommodations that some—straight and gay—have made with their vows of celibacy; the place of therapy and personal fulfillment in the process of spiritual formation; the difficulties of life in community; uncertainty over the role of the ordained priesthood in an order where ministry decisions are increasingly market-driven; conflicts over the place of academic excellence, spirituality and social justice in the schools and colleges for which they are famous; and members’ relationships—sometimes supportive, sometimes hostile, and often uneasy—with the church’s hierarchy and their own superiors.

McDonough and Bianchi avoid a facile progressive triumphalism and deal quite forthrightly with the tensions and difficulties that both liberal and conservative agendas pose to the order: a highly interesting take on the future of the American church and its Jesuit elite.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-520-23055-8

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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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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