Changing attitudes is our most difficult task. Sanders, an insightful guide, knows we have no choice but to try.

THE WAY OF IMAGINATION

ESSAYS

A profoundly humane essayist, novelist, and nature writer finds glimmers of hope for a world in peril.

Sanders, the author of more than 20 books of fiction and nonfiction, investigates our unprecedented rate and scale of environmental destruction, species extinction, and cultural disintegration, locating some familiar culprits: the fundamental scaffolding of capitalism, unrestrained (and unsustainable) growth, wealth defined only in terms of money, grotesque income inequities, overpopulation, squandered resources, and an utter lack of political will to do anything substantive about it. He explores what drives our risky behaviors and antiquated mindsets, painting a grim panorama of human follies and their consequences. However urgent, none of this is terribly original, nor does Sanders, who is often intensely personal, claim it to be. What sets this collection apart is the manner in which he connects these crises and, even in his most despairing moments, assays our capacity for change. One may argue that Sanders overestimates the power of art (literature especially) to sway the multitudes—particularly the comfortable denizens of developed nations—when history shows that the arts have exerted comparatively little direct influence on human actions. The author is no Pollyanna, but he puts his trust in our individual and collective imagination—not just science or the more benign tenets of religion—to conceive of and walk a more constructive path. “Imagination breaks the shell of the status quo,” he writes, “summoning up objects that do not yet exist, actions that no one has yet performed, and wiser ways of living that have yet to be realized….Time and again, bold acts of imagination have given rise to profound shifts in our ethical views and social practices.” Given his focus on domestic foolhardiness, some will criticize Sanders’ exhortations as anti-American or socialistic, but this is a narrow, misguided view.

Changing attitudes is our most difficult task. Sanders, an insightful guide, knows we have no choice but to try.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-365-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more