A brief yet erudite and compellingly original survey that will provoke both personal thought and lively group discussion.

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Suicide

A unique dialectic on the contentious phenomenon of suicide from a noted British philosopher and academic.

Critchley’s (Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance, 2014, etc.) refreshingly nonjudgmental dissection of suicide begins with his assertion that the act—a dark taboo for many—is neither an offense nor something to be taken lightly. The author seeks to demystify suicide with literary “introspection and empathy,” potential reasoning behind the act, and what is left to be emotionally processed by survivors. When seen through the moral lens of Christian theology, suicide is a sin, he writes, but it is nevertheless a gruesome reality begging to be understood. Critchley’s outlook has roots in his own life: he admits to experiencing his own unmooring depression; “This essay,” Critchley says, “is an attempt to get over it.” He lucidly examines the stigma surrounding the act throughout the ages, referencing the principles of radical freethinkers like 18th-century Italian philosopher Alberto Radicati and poet John Donne alongside viewpoints associated with a belief in God, wherein suicide represents a flagrant disrespect for the gift of life. Fascinating as well is Critchley’s exploration of secular opinions on suicide. With an inquisitive, critical eye, he moves on to scrutinize the nature and enigmatic functionality of suicide notes, with their “mixture of depression and exhibitionism.” Readers will see the final words of Kurt Cobain, Elliot Rodger, and the Sandy Hook shooter, among others. The book’s brevity assists in tempering its often heavy, ponderous discussion. Readers touched by suicide and the unanswered questions left behind will appreciate Critchley’s scholarly perspective and intelligent, well-rounded analysis.

A brief yet erudite and compellingly original survey that will provoke both personal thought and lively group discussion.

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Thought Catalog Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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