An exemplary work of scholarship that is comprehensible to everyone.

TIME OF THE MAGICIANS

WITTGENSTEIN, BENJAMIN, CASSIRER, HEIDEGGER, AND THE DECADE THAT REINVENTED PHILOSOPHY

A readable, expert introduction to some of the most abstruse yet influential philosophical thought of the 20th century.

No quartet of contemporaneous philosophers ever had a greater impact on popular thinking, as well as on formal thought, than the figures whom Eilenberger terms “magicians.” That word is the single slip-up (and a minor one) in this enthralling tale of four men whose fresh consideration of thought, sign, and language—variously termed phenomenology, semiotics, linguistics, and epistemology—revolutionized serious philosophical thought in the decade after World War I. Ably translated by Whiteside, Eilenberger’s book is the kind of limpid presentation of Continental philosophical expression rare in books about the subject. It’s an achievement that has already won plaudits and prizes abroad. That’s no doubt due to the author’s own professional standing as a philosopher, but it also owes much to his approach: a multilayered exploration of the lives and thoughts of four very different thinkers at a time when Western and Central Europe struggled to emerge from war and economic crisis before slipping into the horrors of Nazism. The imposing Ludwig Wittgenstein, the hapless Walter Benjamin, the always troubling Martin Heidegger, and the steady, placid Ernst Cassirer emerge from Eilenberger’s portrait as formidable minds attached to flawed personalities whose sometimes barely comprehensible formulations nevertheless transformed the way human understanding is now seen by philosophers. The book’s special value lies in greatly advancing accessibility to these men’s works and thought. So clear and sometimes jaunty is Eilenberger that no reader will miss out from understanding the narrative. One can complain only that he, too, rarely makes known his own views. Otherwise, his lucid presentation of his characters’ often hard-to-comprehend thinking and the muddy language in which they expressed it make this book invaluable for anyone seeking to learn about these extraordinary figures.

An exemplary work of scholarship that is comprehensible to everyone. (16-page b/w photo insert)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55966-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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