For budding mahatmas, a worthy and vigorous introduction, though less well-written than its closest Buddhist counterpart,...

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AMERICAN VEDA

FROM EMERSON AND THE BEATLES TO YOGA AND MEDITATION—HOW INDIAN SPIRITUALITY CHANGED THE WEST

Of gurus, maharajas, swamis and the other practitioners who have come to American shores bringing “India’s leading export”—Hinduism, that is.

Practitioner Goldberg (Roadsigns: On the Spiritual Path—Living at the Heart of Paradox, 2006, etc.), one of many prominent “Hinjus” (Jewish Hindus) who espouse the traditions of South Asia, opens by observing that his book is “about Hinduism,” which, narrowly defined, is “a specific set of precepts and practices derived from India’s primary religion.” Given that Hinduism is the source of Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism, the other major indigenous faiths of the subcontinent, the concentration on Hinduism as a shortcut for Indian religion seems defensible, though still apt to provoke argument. The author blends scholarly interest with firsthand experience, but his insistence that America is thoroughly Veda-ized—since we all use words like guru, karmayogamantra and maybe even namaste—already seems arguable as well, given the resurgence of fundamentalist Christianity. Still, Goldberg has a point, and he does a capable job of showing the influence Hinduism has had for at least the last century and a half, beginning with the Transcendentalists and winding through the sounds of just about any band that has ever used a sitar. The author also sets his sight on loftier exponents, such as T.S. Eliot, a close student of Sanskrit, and J.D. Salinger, whose texts he reads as Vedanta parables. And then there are the Beats, of course. The organization is a little haphazard and the puns (“Maharishi’s little helpers,” “the cart before the source,” “living the vida veda”) may be a little too frequent for some tastes, but Goldberg does yeoman service in chronicling the many ways India has influenced American—and, by extension, Western—culture, often very subtly.

For budding mahatmas, a worthy and vigorous introduction, though less well-written than its closest Buddhist counterpart, Rick Fields’s How the Swans Came to the Lake (1981).

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-52134-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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 author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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