McClory (The Man Who Beat Clout City, 1977) offers some prime details on a story that continues to reverberate through world Catholicism. The Pontifical Commission for the Study of Population, Family and Birth (which advised the Holy See on whether or not to overturn the edict that birth control other than the rhythm method is ``intrinsically indecent'') was born during the heady reformist reign of Pope John XXIII and realized under the guidance of Pope Paul VI. Unlike most official Vatican councils, the commission involved laypeople (both academic experts and nonexperts) in addition to ecclesiastical advisors. Patricia and Patrick Crowley, as co-presidents of the Catholic Family Movement, were two of those nonacademic laypeople. Over the course of the three years of the commission's activity, they watched their reformist hopes shatter against the rocks of conservative hardliners who convinced Pope Paul to retain strictures against birth control. Humanae Vitae, the watershed document the pope issued in 1968, stands as a monument in the minds of many to the entrenched, unmoving nature of the Holy See in matters most intimate to the lives of its faithful. McClory does an admirable job of tracing out—no mean task given the heavy secrecy of most of the proceedings—the whys and wherefores of how the majority of voices on the commission, who like the Crowleys sought papal tolerance of birth control, were torpedoed by energetic, well-connected opponents. The background sections on the nearly 2,000-year-old issue of Christian procreation and the more specific question of birth control are informative, if somewhat brief. Though other sources exist for most of what's here, this book does a nice job of keeping alive the issue of human life and Roman Catholicism. Though the foregone conclusion of this tale precludes high drama, interested readers will find much here to think about.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8245-1458-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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