Sincerity proves to be a richer, more provocative topic than readers might initially suspect.

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SINCERITY

HOW A MORAL IDEAL BORN FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO INSPIRED RELIGIOUS WARS, MODERN ART, HIPSTER CHIC, AND THE CURIOUS NOTION THAT WE ALL HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY (NO MATTER HOW DULL)

An illumination of the shifting attitudes and ambivalence toward a value that society claims to hold in high esteem.

The topic and treatment suggest an academic inquiry, but Magill (Chic Ironic Bitterness, 2007) engages readers with a style that is more conversational than scholastic. The author examines sincerity from a variety of perspectives—religious, philosophical, political, sociological, artistic—as Western culture has alternately feared sincerity, embraced it, or denied the very possibility of it. Perhaps the crux of Magill’s argument comes with his assertion that sincerity and irony, rather than polar opposites, are complementary correctives, with the latter exposing the hypocrisies within professions of the former. The author covers a lot of ground, as he traces the early equation of sincerity with heresy as a challenge to the dogmatic authority of the Catholic Church, through the peculiar attitudes toward authenticity taken by Beats, hippies and hipsters. In the “Hipster Semiotic Appendix,” Magill analyzes the significance of hipster totems, including the trucker hat: “It has become so tired that even to talk about how tiresome it is has itself become tiresome.” The author hopscotches his way through Montaigne and Machiavelli, Emerson and Rousseau, Duchamp and Warhol, and he encapsulates Kerouac and Sartre within the space of a couple of paragraphs (“Sincerity for Sartre is an unachievable state. The fundamental nature of man is that he is insincere in all things”). Ultimately, Magill concludes that “society…likes to turn sincerity on and off when it wants.”

Sincerity proves to be a richer, more provocative topic than readers might initially suspect.

Pub Date: July 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-393-08098-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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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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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