An erudite and ordered reading of Augustine’s Confessions and a worthy addition to any library on early Christianity.

AUGUSTINE

CONVERSIONS TO CONFESSIONS

A comprehensive literary biography of the great Christian thinker Augustine (354-430).

Fox (Ancient History/New Coll., Oxford Univ.; Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer, 2009, etc.) adds a hefty tome to the library of works on St. Augustine of Hippo, focusing mostly on his famous Confessions. Written in the late fourth century, Confessions remains a foundational work of Christian thought. Fox guides readers on an epic journey through the book and the life that inspired it. Presuming a familiarity from his audience with Confessions and with Augustine, Fox systematically explores his subject’s well-documented life and provides in-depth background and commentary capable of assisting even seasoned scholars in a deeper understanding of the great autobiography. For instance, Fox presents a lengthy, detailed, and nuanced explanation of the Manichaean heresy that Augustine fervently followed for a time. Thorough background on topics such as this, obscure today but foundational to a full reading of Confessions, provides a true service to readers. Fox sees Augustine’s early life as a series of conversions, either toward ways of thinking or away from certain lifestyles. Once he had thoroughly accepted orthodox Christianity, however, in the famous garden scene described in Confessions, the focus changed. Augustine ceased to undergo conversions and instead began a period of confession in his life, a grappling with his past that culminated in his writing (or dictating, as Fox theorizes) his great prayer, the Confessions. As Fox notes, “books and people alternate importantly in Augustine’s intellectual journey,” and he explores the many ancient texts that influenced the young Augustine as well as the many people who helped shape him. Fox’s writing is coherent and approachable, but the book is not for casual readers of Augustine. It represents a close analysis of both Confessions and of Augustine himself, leaving few stones unturned.

An erudite and ordered reading of Augustine’s Confessions and a worthy addition to any library on early Christianity.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-465-02227-4

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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