Delicate look at an unusual childhood by an author who has published poems and essays in The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. Simmons was raised as a Christian Scientistthat is, as a believer in the ``Father-Mother God'' and in the absolute contrast between the ``mortal mind'' or ordinary people and the pure spiritual mind of fellow Christian Scientists. Most of this book records his difficult divorce from this American-bred church, which denies the reality of physical phenomena and therefore, in its most famous tenet, rejects the values of modern medicine. Whenever Simmons got sick as a kid, the cure was prayeralthough sometimes his mother would ``fill a heavy old woolen sock with salt, heat it in the oven, and place it over my ear.'' Such unorthodox treatment usually meant long bouts of pain, assuaged by the child's sense of living in a world enfolded in God's love. Simmons dwells wistfully on his mother, who found her artistic abilities thwarted by church and societal expectations, his ``hard'' father, and the Christian Science Church, which ``enchained us with its freedom.'' In time he found escape through model-building, motorcycle-riding, sex, poetry, and the joys of his own family, especially his son, whom he raises by the dictates of conventional medicine. Too much family material that will interest few outside the Simmons clan, and the author loves the pretentious phrase (``And that love made it possible for the architecture of my words to mean something.''). Nonetheless, the details of this Christian Science upbringing enthrall.

Pub Date: May 28, 1991

ISBN: 0-8070-1018-9

Page Count: 173

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1991

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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 19, 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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