When death harkens, Cave provides a luminous, mindful taste of the alternatives.

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IMMORTALITY

THE QUEST TO LIVE FOREVER AND HOW IT DRIVES CIVILIZATION

A categorical account of humanity’s attempt to achieve immortality, from European philosopher and Financial Times essayist Cave.

“Death is meticulous in collecting every living thing sooner or later,” writes the author in this architectural examination of what we think about when we think about death—or rather the ways we devise to trick the inevitable out of its reward. Cave explains how the seeking of immortality is the foundation of human achievement, the wellspring of art, religion and civilization. Our institutions, rituals and beliefs are efforts to clear the path of immortality, and they can be comfortably culled to four impulses: that of simply staying alive, via food, safety and health; the resurrection narrative, rooted in nature’s rhythms, then blossoming into cryogenics and digital avatars; the survival of the soul, what anyone who has had an out-of-body-experience can readily appreciate; and legacy, the indirect extension of ourselves. The touch of the matter, however, is that we know we are going to die, but we can’t accept, or even imagine, nonexistence, so we create institutions that deny or distract us. The author is rangy and recondite, searching the byways of elixirs, the surprises of alchemy, the faith in engineering and all the wonder to be found in discussions of life and death. “Our lives our bounded by beginning and end,” he writes, “yet composed of moments that can reach out far beyond ourselves, touching other people and places in countless ways.”

When death harkens, Cave provides a luminous, mindful taste of the alternatives.

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-88491-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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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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