Religious questionings, literary criticism, and a lifelong penchant for social comment and self-analysis characterize these musings, which vividly evoke the US on the verge of war and Merton on the verge of monastic life. More than 25 years have passed since the author's sudden death at age 53 in 1968, and his private journals, which formed the basis of several of his books, can now be published. This initial volume, edited by a monastic colleague and collaborator, introduces us to Merton as a young intellectual and convert to Catholicism during the years 193941. It records his life in New York City's Greenwich Village, his stint teaching English at Columbia University Extension, his attempts to get published, his short visit to Cuba, and 18 months on the faculty of St. Bonaventure's University in New York state. Merton comes across as a fertile if not always original mind as he discusses such contemporary figures as James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Dylan Thomas, and T.S. Eliot, meanwhile striving to understand life and the European war through the exciting new vision opened up to him by Catholic belief and Scholastic thought. He takes a writer's delight in playing with words, and at times his own prose is Joycean in its allusiveness as he attempts to capture the moment. We read of how Merton thought of joining the Franciscans, then of working with the poor at Friendship House in Harlem, before deciding to become a Trappist monk. Much of his writing here resembles The Seven Storey Mountain, and it contains occasional purple passages of pious fervor and rejection of the world that he would repudiate in the '60s. As in his later works, Merton sometimes appears a bystander to life, trapped in literary self-consciousness. No startling revelations, but a must for Merton scholars and devotees. ($50,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-06-065474-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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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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