For students of Greek drama, a revelatory contemplation of the theater’s enduring power.

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TRAGEDY, THE GREEKS, AND US

A philosopher examines ancient drama for insights into morality, power, and freedom.

In an erudite reconsideration of Greek tragedy, philosopher Critchley (Philosophy/New School for Social Research; What We Think About When We Think About Soccer, 2017, etc.) asserts that the ancient Greek past offers “a way of questioning and destabilizing the present.” Each generation, he writes, has the responsibility of reinventing classical works in order to rescue whatever “will speak to the present and arrest us momentarily from the irresistible pull of the future.” In 61 brief chapters, each an inquiry, commentary, or meditation, Critchley offers close readings that assume readers’ familiarity with many of the 31 extant tragedies by Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus; iconic playwrights such as Shakespeare, Beckett, and Brecht; philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle; and critical works on tragedy by philosophers, theorists, and literary scholars from German idealists and romantics to contemporary writers such as Judith Butler, Terry Eagleton, and Anne Carson. Tragedy, Critchley writes, “poses a most serious threat to that invention we call philosophy” because it presents a “conflictually constituted world defined by ambiguity, duplicity, uncertainty, and unknowability.” In tragedy, humans must respond “to demands that exceed autonomy, that flow from the past, disrupt the present, and disable the future.” Gods stand as “the placeholder for a force or forces that exceed yet determine and can indeed destroy human agency. The gods are names for powers not under our control.” Among many unresolved questions about the impact of tragedy on viewers, the author asks about “the inversion of gender roles” in plays centered on the actions of intelligent, courageous women. In rigidly patriarchal Greek society, young men played these roles, and it is not known if women were among audience members. Male viewers, then, were confronted with displays of women’s power as well as overwhelming grief. Were such plays “lifelike,” Critchley wonders, “…or is something more subversive, troubling, and insurrectionary taking place in drama?”

For students of Greek drama, a revelatory contemplation of the theater’s enduring power.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4794-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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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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