A fascinating, impassioned hybrid of memoir and divine supposition.



Former Guideposts editor Tompkins (The Divine Life of Animals: One Man's Quest to Discover Whether the Souls of Animals Live On, 2010, etc.) plumbs theories on mortality and the prospects of an afterlife.

From a childhood dominated by gloomy nightmares and spectral visions of death, the author grew up with conflicting notions of life and the mystery shrouding the dead. He was guided by his father who favored karma over science and religion and believed the human soul preexisted the physical body; he often referenced “great early architects of new age thought” like Russian mystic Helena Blavatsky, American clairvoyant Edgar Cayce, and Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard. As a result, Tompkins’ own burgeoning mysticism took shape and developed into a pursuit that landed him a job writing articles for Guideposts, where he bonded with readers, embraced their otherworldly stories of life after death and transcended materialistic convictions. Following this short personal account, the author delves into a scholarly comparison of historical life-after-death belief systems. The discussion encompasses several books of the dead, including the ancient Egyptian belief in the immortality and divinity of the human soul and Tibetan theories of nonexistence. He also addresses a beguiling handful of related topics: residual postmortem consciousness, the concept of reincarnation, flying saucers, the American Transcendentalist philosophy of the regeneration (and perfection) of the self through consecutive lives and the largely overlooked studies of afterlife researchers. Perhaps most illuminating and convincing are the eerily beautiful true-life stories from those who believe they’ve experienced near-death events. Tompkins is a bright proponent, credibly arguing that personal life knowledge doesn’t halt with physical death, but instead continues into an otherworldly state of being that we’ve only begun to contemplate.

A fascinating, impassioned hybrid of memoir and divine supposition.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-1652-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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