A sometimes-insightful, sometimes–mean-spirited and abstruse meditation on ethics.

The Time War

HOW A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF POLITICS AND THE SOUL COULD CHANGE AMERICA

A vehement philosophical manifesto that uses metaphysical theory to justify right-wing policy proposals.

O’Reilly (Authority, Creativity and the Third Imperium: Why God’s Knowledge of Himself, Outside Himself Is Important, 2015, etc.), a travel-book editor and ex-seminarian with a degree in existential phenomenology and psychology, brings together Aristotelian philosophy, unorthodox theology, and even quantum mechanics and string theory to craft an intellectual and moral basis for American politics and policy. The core of the book is an extremely difficult, often incomprehensible analysis of the nature of God, time, and the human soul, full of endless rehashes of mystical conundrums: “How can we understand the mechanism whereby the Eternal can enter or manipulate time without any change occurring in the eternal’s nature?” The book eventually offers a more coherent approach to mundane morality, arguing cogently that people should develop clear ethical systems built on rational principles of right action rather than just doing whatever feels good—as, he contends, our modern culture teaches. The specifics of this moral reclamation project center on familiar preoccupations of the religious right; for example, O’Reilly denounces homosexuality as a “moral disability” and asserts that “excessive or unrepentant masturbation” is a gateway to gayness. He compares doctors who perform late-term abortions to “demons,” adding that “the only thing you can do with a demon is lock it up or shoot it”; he also calls for more executions to deter crime and reduce prison expenditures. The loose-limbed text ranges haphazardly across the millennia, examining thinkers from Plato to St. Thomas Aquinas, John Adams, Sigmund Freud, and rapper/actor Ice-T. His general encouragement of a thoughtful, morally serious approach to life is edifying, and his commentary is sometimes incisive. Unfortunately, the book’s fixation on murky philosophical and theological abstractions often makes the prose nearly impossible to follow: “Imagine infinite energy, force and consciousness knowing itself as other than itself….It has to know itself within limits; in order to do that it self-creates time and space but the force with which it creates limits is infinite in relation to its own nature.” Even worse, for all of this book’s cosmic dilations on first principles, the moral vision that it derives from them seems petty and crabbed.

A sometimes-insightful, sometimes–mean-spirited and abstruse meditation on ethics.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2016

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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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