Beautifully drawn, contentious, and word-heavy, offering everything about early Mormonism that anyone might like to know.

JOSEPH SMITH AND THE MORMONS

A graphic novelist takes a deep dive into the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I was born the eighth of nine children into an LDS family,” writes Van Sciver in the author’s note, going on to describe how his “faith evaporated” even as he still maintained interest in the church since childhood. “I spent years immersed in an independent study on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he writes. “I traveled to historic sites all over the country and read books, went to church, listened to hymns, and wrote and drew like the Devil was chasing me.” This graphic history/biography is intensive with dialogue and text, but it’s particularly eloquent on the wordless pages, which allow Van Sciver’s artistry to shine through. The author ably captures the world in which Joseph Smith and his followers made their way west through the wilderness, facing persecution and charges of perfidy at every turn. (Van Sciver takes Smith and his followers to Missouri, ending well before they continued to Utah after his death.) Though the book will likely displease strict LDS followers, the author insists that he seeks to tell the story “as straightforwardly as I can and to let readers draw their own conclusions.” The book suggests that the young Smith was something of a con man, perhaps from a family of swindlers, well before he allegedly experienced heavenly visions. Van Sciver renders those visions expertly, the illustrations cast in a ghostly blue and white, providing a pleasing contrast with the otherwise full-color narrative. As the author shows, Smith was duplicitous in wooing his wife and keeping from her the sexual dalliances that led to a doctrine of polygamy. Furthermore, his bank cheated depositors, and his deceptions were spread by muckraking newspapers. One page proclaims him, “Swindler, Charlatan, Crook, Fraud,” as if the universe itself were passing judgment.

Beautifully drawn, contentious, and word-heavy, offering everything about early Mormonism that anyone might like to know.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4965-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Abrams ComicArts

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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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 very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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