A slim book in which every word is important, one that deserves to be read multiple times.

THE WAR OF THE POOR

A slender, vivid history of a 16th-century populist revolt that holds relevance for current times.

In his latest, Vuillard, the winner of the 2017 Prix Goncourt for The Order of the Day, follows Thomas Münzter (c. 1489-1525), a zealous German preacher “who rejected the debates among learned theologians; esotericism made him sick. He appealed to public opinion.” Throughout this brief but powerful, moving book, the author clearly and poetically demonstrates Münzter’s passion for reform. “He is enraged,” writes Vuillard. “He wants the rulers’ skins, he wants to sweep away the church, he wants to gut all those bastards….He wants to put an end to all that pomp and miserable circumstance. Vice and wealth devastate him; their conjunction devastates him.” As the narrative progresses, the initial feeling of disjointedness morphs into a delightful thread of connection as the author pinballs around the 16th-century landscape. He chronicles the plight of the repressed serfs in Leipzig, Prague, Rome, and Avignon. Like most fanatics, Münzter could occasionally come across as a raving lunatic, leading the poor to raise the wrath of God against the godless rulers who suppressed them. The availability of the Bible in the vernacular encouraged Münzter to receive God’s direct message through visions and dreams. People flocked to hear him conduct services in German. He rejected Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine in favor of Erasmus and Raymond Lully, though he eventually dismissed all theologians. In addition to his Prague Manifesto, Münzter also wrote Protestation, which argued that “the crucial experience of humanity was suffering,” the only way that one “could receive the word of God.” Summoned to justify his work to the Elector of Saxony and the crown prince, he foretold the rise of the silent flocks who would destroy them.

A slim book in which every word is important, one that deserves to be read multiple times.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-008-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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