A thorough, textured analysis of the sources and strategies of Martin Luther King's preaching and rhetoric. Lischer (Homiletics/Duke Univ. Divinity School) argues that focusing on King's thought as expressed in his ``derivative'' academic work scants the ``stunning creativity'' of his achievement in articulating the values and aspirations of the civil rights movement. Thus, in trying to locate King's true voice, Lischer relies on sources that he says many biographers overlook: audiotapes and unedited transcripts of King's sermons and speeches. He traces King's development as a ``preacher's kid,'' inheriting the Baptist Church's mixed heritage of resistance and faith in otherworldly relief. At Morehouse College, King found another influence in the intellectual idiom of the school's president Benjamin Mays; later, at Crozer Seminary and Boston University, he drew on broader religious traditions but never lost his grounding in the black community and church. Thrust into prominence at 26 as a Montgomery, Ala., church leader, King responded with his rich intellectual and spiritual resources; in one of several insightful critiques, Lischer shows how the preacher galvanized his audience by using repetition of the word ``tired'' to connect historical black grievances with contemporary humiliations. The author demonstrates how King drew on an enormous range of material—poems, gospel formulas, paragraphs from speeches of popular white preachers—and inserted them ``like numbers on a jukebox'' for maximum effect. Lischer also shows how King was able to speak authentically to blacks, yet also reach the larger society by linking social reform with the country's dominant Christianity. He concludes with analyses of King's choices of biblical preaching texts, his ``first draft'' style of preaching, and, fascinatingly, his powerful voice at mass organizing meetings. Lischer argues that King was able to frame a broadly based rationale for racial equality in a historical moment that has since passed. Worthy stuff, but more detail than most readers will want.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508779-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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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