A thorough and thought-provoking examination of the roles houses of worship play in communities.



A work studies a wide variety of causes and ripple effects of houses of worship closing their doors.

“Religious buildings,” Frank writes, “their spaces and programs, their very presence, have long been essential elements of the sense of place that grounds community life in America.” The author sees houses of worship as the centers of this extremely important sense of place, a concept that extends well beyond the specific religious intentions of the people and denominations that built them in the first place. Frank notes that this vital sense of place was often reflected even in the geography of houses of worship, which often tended to cluster near town centers or commons. He uses as his main example North Adams, Massachusetts, focusing his inquiries on the kinds of general questions such buildings tend to prompt. These questions include “What kind of place is this, and what place will it become?” And, the author asks, “who gets to” answer or even frame such questions? These queries become more pressing as local communities across America lose parishes and centers of worship at an increasing rate, with the buildings themselves being repurposed into apartments, condos, and city offices. In all of these cases, Frank probes the far-reaching effects of such closings. “Is the scale of these closings indicative of social change and accelerating dispersal of ethnic and neighborhood cohesion?” he asks. “Or do the closings themselves exacerbate these trends? Or both?”

Throughout the book, the author takes a bracing, factual tone, completely rejecting the idea that he’s indulging in mere nostalgia. The historical activities he’s engaged in, “remembering stories of the past, asking how buildings came to be, or who the people were who populated this house of worship and this community,” are, he points out, “explicitly anti-nostalgic.” Understanding this kind of history, he maintains, “is essential in planning for a constructive future.” Frank uses the case of North Adams very skillfully in order to both explore the issues and challenge his readers. He has some stern words for the callous or unthinking way municipalities—and church management teams—sometimes deal with the issues involved in closing houses of worship. When he describes, for instance, the somewhat fumbling way North Adams dealt with closing, consolidating, and renaming churches, he asks: “But a diocese” can just “announce the renovation of collective memory and the institution of new folkways?” Most of Frank’s readers have at least a few houses of worship in their own immediate settings, and perhaps many of them know of such places that have indeed been transformed into condos or office spaces. But all readers will be captivated by the author’s intelligent and unflinching insights into both the role that houses of worship play in their cities and the changes that can happen when they close their doors.

A thorough and thought-provoking examination of the roles houses of worship play in communities.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61846-095-0

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Library Partners Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2020

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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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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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