An enthusiastic but overly sensationalized synthesis of ``historical Jesus'' scholarship. Shorto, by his own admission, is not a New Testament scholar, archaeologist, or scientist; he is a contributor to popular magazines like GQ, whose assignment to cover the controversial Jesus Seminar (engaged in an attempt to weed out the true from the apocryphal in the life of Jesus) turned into a book. What you see is what you get: This is one journalist's attempt to explore the ins and outs of the ``quest for the historical Jesus.'' Some of the chapters are illuminating, reporting on the way in which scientific advances have shed new light on ancient biblical ``mysteries'' surrounding Jesus' life and activities: Shorto is at his best when explaining how the DNA of sheepskin parchment can be used to piece together fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example. The book closes with a helpful examination of how the search for the historical Jesus has influenced spirituality in contemporary churches, though the enthusiastic Shorto overstates the impact it has made on ordinary folks. The greatest flaw of this book is its insistence that scholars' debunking of miracles (particularly the virgin birth and resurrection) is new. Even while quoting past skeptics, from Jefferson to Twain to Albert Schweitzer, Shorto leads the reader into a false sense of the ``radical'' novelty of such critiques. The quest for the historical Jesus has officially been underway for a century, and unofficially for much longer than that. Shorto's synthesis incorrectly assumes a fashionable trendiness to historical Jesus research. What is new is the merger of such research with science and the way in which the search, and the heated debates surrounding it, have filtered down into popular culture via books and magazine articles. Shorto's rather breathless approach offers a simplified, and thus inadequate, portrait of the nature and history of the movement he is trying to legitimize.

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-57322-056-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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