A solid exploration into the fine line between the faithful and the fraudulent in 20th-century Catholicism.

PADRE PIO

MIRACLES AND POLITICS IN A SECULAR AGE

Biography of Padre Pio, a 20th-century Italian friar who claimed religious miracles, including stigmata.

Luzzatto (Modern History/Univ. of Turin, Italy; The Body of Il Duce: Mussolini’s Corpse and the Fortunes of Italy, 2005) recounts the little-known tale of the modest Capuchin monk who experienced a religious epiphany in September 1918 that spurred controversy and divided Catholics for decades. “I look at my hands, feet, and side and see they are wounded and blood is pouring out,” he reported. Padre Pio claimed his injuries were actually the mark of the stigmata, agitating not only his small mountain town, but the head of the church in Rome as well. Set against the backdrop of war-torn Italy, Luzzatto offers a rich story of faith versus science, in which Padre Pio’s claims of miraculous wonder were believed by the people but discounted by the pope. By 1945, Padre Pio received 45,000 letters per year, though his popularity made him a target. The Catholic Church was uncertain how to deal with the holy man, though “[b]etween 1918 and 1968, every pontiff tried, directly or indirectly, to put his stamp on Padre Pio.” On the church’s authority, Padre Pio underwent a battery of psychological tests, leading his examiner to conclude his subject of “infirm mind” and a “psychiatric hospital mystic.” Yet soon after, another examination concluded differently, offering a “vote of confidence for Padre Pio.” The mystery remained unresolved, though doubt began rising once more when it was discovered that Padre Pio often retained small amounts of carbolic acid in his cell—a chemical fully capable of burning the marks he claimed were God-given. The world watched as Rome struggled to decide whether they were debunking a myth or disregarding a miracle. Luzzatto hones in on the central question: “could a good Christian ever accept the existence of an alter Christus, a living Christ figure?” Padre Pio’s experiences would suggest not, at least in the view of the papacy.

A solid exploration into the fine line between the faithful and the fraudulent in 20th-century Catholicism.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8905-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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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