FIRST YOU HAVE TO ROW A LITTLE BOAT

REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND LIVING

Good-natured parables in which the lessons learned from sailing are translated into lessons about living. Bode (Blue Sloop at Dawn, 1979) looks back across a half century to his boyhood years on Long Island Sound, where he fell in love with boats and learned to sail. In the title piece, the author, as a 12-year-old eager to sail, is first made to row a small boat, and from the experience comes to understand the importance of mastery not over the boat or the elements but over himself. Sailing with a favorable wind teaches him the dangers of complacency and, from a frightening collision, he learns to handle his fears about the unpredictable. Even sailors' knots become metaphors as Bode likens a sturdy square knot to a good marriage and an improperly tied granny knot to a mismatched couple who ``scrape and chafe against each other.'' Getting lost in fog teaches him not to thrash about wildly in confusion but to wait calmly for ``the one constant in the swirling mist that would set me on my rightful course''—a lesson that serves him well in midlife when his private life collapses and he's lost in a different kind of fog. Sailing also teaches him to attend to details, for, as he puts it, ``everything significant is small and slow.'' A frequent contributor to Reader's Digest, Bode is adept at pulling messages out of ordinary experiences. The images he creates are simple and clear, and so are the lessons he derives from them. A warm, fuzzy read for those who like to curl up with cozy philosophizing.

Pub Date: May 21, 1993

ISBN: 0-446-51681-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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