Sound bites of ethnic beliefs and data from sessions with the author's psychotherapy clients are the material for this attempt to talk about what happens to us after death. Miller, founder and director of the Institute for the Study of the Afterdeath, sees herself as going beyond Elizabeth KÅbler-Ross's theory of the dying process and Raymond Moody's study of near-death experience by posing the question of what actually follows death. She hopes to improve on the usual American diet of denial and bromides as she introduces the reader to funeral customs and post-mortem scenarios envisioned by groups in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Tibet, and West Africa. Miller is especially interested in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble religion and its cult of the Egun, or ancestral spirits, known as ``the living dead''; she believes that the spirits visited her while she was enduring a very high fever in her Manhattan apartment. The vignettes presented here are too brief for real discussion, and Miller does not explain her rationale for choosing them. Nor does she tell us what lies behind the persistent use of her neologism ``afterdeath.'' The reader is thus left with the impression that the author is insinuating an agenda rather than discussing it openly. Miller divides the ``afterdeath'' process into four stages: waiting, judgment, possibility, and return. This, together with her dismissive treatment of Islamic and Christian cultures, seems to beg the whole question of rebirth as a quasi-universal folk belief. Although Miller sometimes speaks of her vignettes as simply cultural data, she nevertheless treats them as veridical descriptions of life beyond the grave, without any apparent awareness of the logical problems this poses. Patchy and poorly thought through. Better to read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. (Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection)

Pub Date: April 10, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-82236-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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 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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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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