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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

THE DEFENSE LAWYER

THE BARRY SLOTNICK STORY

The Patterson publishing machine clanks its way into the nonfiction aisles in this lumbering courtroom drama.

Barry Slotnick made a considerable fortune and reputation as a defense attorney who had a long list of controversial clients, including mob boss John Gotti and Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. An “urbane lawyer known for his twenty-five-hundred-dollar Fioravanti suits, he was not unacquainted with violence,” write Patterson and Wallace. One of his early cases, indeed, involved a group of Jewish Defense League members who allegedly blew up a Broadway producer’s office, killing a woman who worked there. Slotnick’s defense was a standard confuse-the-jury ploy, but it worked. He put similar tactics to work in his defense of Bernhard Goetz, the “subway shooter” whose trial made international news. The authors open after that trial had concluded in yet another Slotnick win, and with a sensational incident: He was attacked by a masked man who beat him with a baseball bat. The evidence is sketchy, but it seems to place the attack in the hands of organized crime—perhaps even Gotti himself. No matter: Slotnick, “who saw himself as the foe of the all-powerful government” and “liberty’s last champion,” was soon back to representing clients including Radovan Karadžić, the murderous Bosnian Serb who was eventually imprisoned for having committed genocide; Dewi Sukarno, the widow of Indonesia’s similarly bloodstained president, “arrested for slashing the face of a fellow socialite with a broken champagne glass at a party in Aspen”; and Melania Trump, who had chosen Slotnick “to handle her prenup.” In the hands of a John Grisham, the story might have come to life, but while Patterson does a serviceable if cliché-ridden job of recounting Slotnick’s career, he fails to give readers much reason to admire the man.

For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49437-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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