For people of faith, a thoughtful exercise in soulcraft.

REVELATIONS ON THE RIVER

HEALING A NATION, HEALING OURSELVES

An entrepreneur and strategist considers this time of turmoil and what lessons can be drawn from it.

Riversides are good places to court spiritual truths, and Dowd, former chief political analyst for ABC News, delivers 10 of his own discoveries uncovered along the banks of the Blanco in central Texas. After working for numerous Republicans, including George W. Bush, Dowd switched over to the Democratic Party and recently announced a run for lieutenant governor of his troubled state. The author touches lightly on political themes, condemning the Jan. 6 insurrection, “where the chambers were taken over by an armed mob and people killed.” He also observes that during his time at ABC, he regularly received death threats “because of my criticisms of the past administration.” Of the tribe that would commit such acts, Dowd tries to be understanding, if not forgiving, but it’s clear where his sympathies lie. In a homiletic moment, he urges, “Let us turn this ends-justify-the-means approach 180 degrees on its head and move toward a means-justify-the-ends way of life.” The author writes from a Catholic position, though with just as strong an ecumenical streak, quoting Buddhist thought, Kahlil Gibran, and the Quran. Love reigns supreme throughout his examination of major themes, including trauma, the division between religion and science, and the interconnection of all people. Dowd takes a New Age–meets–Star Wars turn when he writes that love “is the strongest energy operating in the universe,” but for those worrying about whether God is really love, his assurances are quiet but insistent. Usefully for those beset by worry in the first place, the author counsels that “trauma and fears often hold us back from being our best self” and then offers actual concrete actions to hold those fears at bay.

For people of faith, a thoughtful exercise in soulcraft.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5107-6863-5

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2021

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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 refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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