A close-up of Merton's intimate life during his early years as a Trappist monk. Not long after his conversion to the Catholic faith, Merton left New York City's Greenwich Village and his post at Columbia University on a quest that culminated in his entering the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemane in rural Kentucky. Here we have remnants of Merton's lost noviciate journal, which record the impressions of his first five months at the monastery; a brief memoir of Abbot Frederick Dunne; and a long journal covering the years 194652, extracts from which were published in 1953 as The Sign of Jonas, but which we can now read for the first time exactly as Merton wrote it. The previously unpublished passages contain the monk's most personal soliloquies and prayers, and they also deal with his conflicts surrounding the publication of The Seven Storey Mountain, which brought him worldwide fame just as he was seeking to enter more deeply into a hidden life of prayer and silence. We are given new light on his thoughts of leaving Gethsemane for the solitude of the Carthusian Order and on how the writings of St. Louis de Montfort enabled him to develop a profound devotion for the Virgin Mary. Whether he is recording his reactions to the recent publication of Dylon Thomas's poems or his thoughts at the time of his priestly ordination, Merton writes with an amazing immediacy, as if he were talking to a friend. These journals are full of details of Trappist life that have largely passed into oblivion since the 1960s, such as the severe manual work and the sign language. The single-mindedness of the writings strongly evokes an era when American Catholics were eager to show that they, no less than Europeans, could appropriate the Church's ascetic and contemplative tradition. Essential reading for Merton fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-065476-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet