An intriguing look at an unusual religious and medical phenomenon. Harrison, a former religious affairs correspondent for the BBC, investigates historical and contemporary reports of stigmata, the strange bleeding marks that are said to resemble the wounds suffered by Jesus at the Crucifixion. Having interviewed both physicians and those who suffer from the stigmata, he tells us that the marks appear most often on the hands and feet but can appear as stripes on the back, where Jesus was supposed to have been scourged, or on the side where, according to the Gospels, he was pierced by a spear. The first documented case of the lesions happened to St. Francis of Assisi in 1224. Since then, it is estimated, 300 or more people have suffered the wounds. Are these the result of excessive religious fervor and mental imbalance manifesting itself physically? Or are the wounds a gift from God, a sign of blessing given to the truly faithful? Almost all the reported cases have come from poor Catholics living in Mediterranean countries. Officially, the Vatican admits the possibility that the marks are miraculous in origin while looking skeptically on any individual case. Medical science has scrutinized reported cases for 200 years. According to the scientific view, the wounds are the product of emotional stress. Women afflicted outnumber men by a ratio of seven to one. The wounds are more common in religious communities and monasteries. Recent years have witnessed an increase of cases in England and Latin America. The phenomenon is no longer confined to Catholics. And the United States has produced the first non-Caucasian sufferers as Native Americans and African-Americans have experienced the phenomenon. The author believes that global conditions (poverty, stress, a rise in charismatic Christianity) are right for an increase in reported cases. Fascinating and well told, this tale of religious fervor will appeal to believers and skeptics alike.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-11372-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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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