Insightful but not entirely convincing.

THE WORM AT THE CORE

ON THE ROLE OF DEATH IN LIFE

Psychology professors Solomon (Skidmore Coll.), Greenberg (Univ. of Arizona) and Pyszczynski (Univ. of Colorado, Colorado Springs) follow up their study of the psychological effects of 9/11 on the American population (In the Wake of 9-11: the Psychology of Terror, 2003) with a look at how the knowledge of mortality impacts human culture.

The authors’ contention that fear of death has been a primary driving force of human culture is controversial, but its relevance in incontestable. They began working together on the elaboration of what they now call “Terror Management Theory” in the 1970s when they were doctoral candidates in experimental social psychology. Although other species appear to mourn their dead, only humans are aware of their own mortality and terrified by this knowledge. “The awareness of death,” write the authors, “arose as a byproduct of early humans' burgeoning self-awareness…hurling our terrified and demoralized ancestors into the psychological abyss.” This inspired their creation of “a supernatural universe that afforded a sense of control over life and death” and the possibility of immortality. In the authors' view, it was the practice of religious rituals associated with these beliefs that spurred the development of social organization and technology, as well as medical advances. The authors offer accounts of their experiments as evidence to buttress their contention that under stress, we look for social stability. In one, subjects were asked to evaluate candidates’ statements in a hypothetical gubernatorial election. After subjects were given a reminder of death, their choices switched dramatically to favor a charismatic leader. Conversely, challenges to the accepted social order were shown to evoke thoughts of death. The authors also examine how we are motivated by conscious thoughts of death, subliminal reminders of which we are consciously unaware can elicit more powerful, potentially destructive defenses responses.

Insightful but not entirely convincing.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6747-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE

A TRUE STORY OF CORRUPTION AND MURDER IN THE LAPD

At least some L.A. cops were abusing their trust long before the Rodney King case—as demonstrated in this riveting narrative of police-sponsored insurance fraud, armed robbery, automatic-weapons dealing, and murder for hire. Detective Richard Ford and Officer Robert Von Villas of the LAPD's Devonshire Division (nicknamed ``Club Dev'' to emphasize its contrast with rougher areas of the city) seemed pillars of rectitude: decorated Vietnam heroes; charming and caring husbands and fathers, beloved for their service to the community. Many were astonished, then, when, in 1983, the two were indicted for conspiring to murder and for performing a contract killing. Their chief accuser, Bruce Adams, appeared a lowlife by contrast: an auto mechanic having business difficulties with the two cops, who were his silent partners; a Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress disorder and a troubled work history. Even with a wealth of circumstantial evidence and a wired Adams catching Ford in an explicit conversation about a planned sex-torture-mutilation murder, convicting L.A.'s ``killer cops'' wasn't easy: The cases cost city taxpayers $8-10 million, with the trials concluded only six years after the arrests. As the first L.A. cops convicted of first-degree murder, Ford and Von Villas received life without possibility of parole. Golab (a contributing editor to Los Angeles magazine) tells the tale primarily from the viewpoint of Adams, an ambivalent hero terrified of informing on Ford (and no wonder: unlike the Federal Witness Protection Program, with its deep pockets, the LAPD could spare only $7,000 to help Adams relocate, and he and his family continue to live in hiding). It's a truly scary cautionary tale, though Golab's attempts to see it as a harbinger of the Rodney King beating seem forced, except for his noting of the rogue cops' belief that their badges were shields of immunity. Narrated with little grace, but the bone-chilling horror comes through in this story begging for film or TV adaptation.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1993

ISBN: 0-87113-499-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1993

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A passionate, well-reported history of the role Texas football played in America’s racial integration.

THE KIDS GOT IT RIGHT

HOW THE TEXAS ALL-STARS KICKED DOWN RACIAL WALLS

Consummate sports chronicler Dent (Courage Behind the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story, 2012, etc.) examines a transformative football event in Texas that blurred racial boundaries.

Back when sports “lacked the glitz, the megamillions, and the idolization,” one popular all-star game stole the spotlight from all other arenas: the Big 33 Football Classic. Pitting two teams of 33 high school football all-star players against each other, it was the ultimate rivalry competition. Dent begins his coverage of two pivotal incarnations of the event in 1964, as Texas bowed to Pennsylvania in a crushing 12-6 loss. The defeat enraged Texas coach Bobby Layne, a former superstar quarterback saddled with a drinking habit and relentless hubris. With the able assistance of longtime friend and former teammate Doak Walker and the approval of then-mayor John Connally, the Texas all-star team enlisted three exceptionally talented but largely ignored black players who had yet to be integrated into the Texas games: James Harris, George Dunford and Jerry “the Jet” LeVias, a beefy yet swift scholarship athlete who fought through a polio-riddled childhood to emerge a gifted athlete with the NFL. LeVias was befriended by talented white high school quarterback Bill Bradley, his “blue-eyed soul brother,” who rejected segregationist norms of the time to become LeVias’ roommate and best friend. The sold-out, media-frenzied Big 33 game in 1965 found Texas taking victorious strides in both football and racial equality. Dent includes generous sections of lively game play, personal profiles and interesting postscripts from Coach Layne, Walker, Bradley, LeVias and respected black Texas high school coach Clifton Ozen.

A passionate, well-reported history of the role Texas football played in America’s racial integration.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-00785-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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