TURNING POINT

THE INSIDE STORY OF THE PAPAL BIRTH CONTROL COMMISSION, AND HOW HUMANAE VITAE CHANGED THE LIFE OF PATTY CROWLEY AND THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

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 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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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