A useful, provocative spotlight on one of the leading lights of the 20th century.

RICHARD JOHN NEUHAUS

A LIFE IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

The many sides of Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009).

Boyagoda (American Studies/Ryerson Univ.; Beggar’s Feast, 2011, etc.) does a true service by offering this first full-length biography of the Christian cleric. Though Neuhaus was a man who defied labels, he was classified by many as a radical leftist, neoconservative, Lutheran, Catholic, activist, writer, etc. Boyagoda begins with a compelling account of Neuhaus’ boyhood as the precocious son of a conservative Lutheran pastor in Canada. One of eight children, he nevertheless soon stood out as unique, playing preacher and giving sermons to his little sister. Despite largely misspent teen years, which Boyagoda does not blanch to reveal, Neuhaus finally settled into a life of the mind at a St. Louis Lutheran seminary. There, he caused trouble not so much through alcohol and pranks as through doctrinal difference. Eventually, Neuhaus pursued urban ministry in New York and fell headlong into the civil rights movement and liberal politics. By the end of the 1960s, however, his views had begun to change, and he began to move toward becoming one of America’s most recognizable neoconservatives. Moreover, he continued on a spiritual road that would eventually bring about his conversion to Catholicism and ordination as a Catholic priest in 1990. Along the way came international fame, the editorship of First Things and such acclaimed books as The Naked Public Square (1984). Neuhaus also rubbed shoulders with legions of important politicians, activists, theologians, pundits and others during the course of his life. Boyagoda dispassionately describes this fascinating and active life, and he manages to blend skills as a folksy storyteller, researcher and unbiased historian, providing a biography that is balanced, interesting and relevant.

A useful, provocative spotlight on one of the leading lights of the 20th century.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0307953964

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Image/Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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