Evil: An Investigation

Evil: An Investigation

by Lance Morrow
     
 

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At the beginning of the twenty-first century, evil remains as potent and radical a force in the world as it has ever been. We all know evil when we encounter it-in the villains of history like Hitler and Stalin, in the routine brutality that makes the nightly news, in the hateful violence of terrorists and sociopaths-but the phenomenon of evil has long resisted…  See more details below

Overview

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, evil remains as potent and radical a force in the world as it has ever been. We all know evil when we encounter it-in the villains of history like Hitler and Stalin, in the routine brutality that makes the nightly news, in the hateful violence of terrorists and sociopaths-but the phenomenon of evil has long resisted explanation. In this singular survey of this mysterious but all too often palpable force, veteran Time magazine essayist Lance Morrow offers a sustained look at the unmistakable ways evil manifests itself in history and in the human heart. This is a provocative meditation on the role evil plays in shaping human history, a timely analysis of how this primitive force can be understood in a modern society of high-tech, sensationalized brutality, and a daring exploration of why evil may be necessary in the world.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Evil is a most elusive subject, and Morrow knows better than to take it head-on. He is a well-established writer for Time, and this book has something of that magazine's breezy eclecticism. Citations run from Jean Cocteau to John Wayne; from Samantha Power to Slobodan Milosevic; from William James to William Buckley. As one would expect in a consideration of evil, Hannah Arendt is here, but so is Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, the South African psychologist whose encounter with a torturer nicknamed ''Prime Evil'' is the perfect counterpoint to Arendt's encounter with Eichmann. — James Carroll
The Washington Post
A longtime writer for Time magazine, Morrow is a master of the think piece, and his 34 chapters, some only a few pages long, adhere to that journalistic model. They use an anecdote...or a literary reference...to raise the big questions...Morrow is never less than engaging...—David Heim
Publishers Weekly
In Heart, a memoir centering on his heart attacks, Morrow asked questions about the nature of evil as it relates to illness and death. This foray into evil generally is a thing of snippets rather than sustained case building. Morrow, author of more than 150 Time cover stories, begins by responding to a variety of events, some of them on the scale of the Holocaust and September 11, others more modest, such as several particularly gruesome murders and the shootings at Columbine, trying to grasp where evil inheres. He then wanders through a mass of heartfelt but turgid sentiments, from which it is possible to extract a few conclusions about his opinions: evil exists; people may be evil; deeds may be evil even when people are not; there are degrees of evil, great and small, justifiable and unjustifiable. Franz Fanon's liberation-through-violence ideology and the cult of the Marquis de Sade are evil, for Morrow, and so are thinkers who praise either. And so on. The book rises above this level occasionally, as in his portrait of several individuals who resist classification, and supports another conclusion: that we have to talk about evil. At other times, Morrow descends to the level of mere name-dropping, as in his portrayal of a Stockholm conference on international violence. One can extract from this book a reasonably favorable opinion of Morrow's thoughtfulness and personal ethics, but he does not offer much exploration in the direction of possible solutions, nor has he been rigorous in sifting his reflections for lucidity. Anybody who wants to keep up on impassioned screeds in pop ethics will find something to like here, but much religious thought on the matter, to take one example, goes undiscussed. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Impressionistic, sometimes glancing ponderings on evil as theological construct, historical fact, and journalistic staple. The E word makes for a big subject, and it gets batted around a lot among politicians ("evil empire," "axis of evil") and pundits. Time.com columnist Morrow (Heart: A Memoir, 1995) weighs in with a declaration that evil, which he never quite defines, is a reality-though, echoing a trope from The Usual Suspects, he adds, "Evil has made a successful career over many centuries by persuading people that it does not exist." In the pages that follow, Morrow expands on that argument in several directions. Some are quite helpful for anyone seeking to understand why bad things happen to good people: Evil, writes Morrow, is a normal part of life; evil is committed by ordinary folks just as often as by criminal masterminds, and ordinary people can do considerably more damage when they set about misbehaving; young people are more evil than old ones (though perhaps only because evil youngsters get killed off before they can become evil seniors). Others veer into the bizarre, as when Morrow posits that the Third Reich was "an evil national mirthlessness," layering it on with the still stranger thought that "no people with a decent sense of humor would have tolerated Hitler and his grotesque crew and absurd racial theories for five minutes." Do funny folks then have no evil in them? So Morrow suggests before going on to pummel the late Kurt Cobain for having committed a few creepy sexual images to print (failing to consider that Cobain may have been trying on a literary mask or two) and the present culture in general for having produced Cobain, Columbine, and other monstrous entriesin Morrow's hall of shame. In all this, the author fails to provide a specific mailing address for evil, whose image remains a bit fuzzy. Even so, this is a good-and readable-selection from its résumé.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786728169
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
04/27/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
299 KB

Meet the Author

Lance Morrow, twice winner of the National Magazine Award, is a longtime essayist for TIME magazine. He contributes essays and articles to other publications and is the author of eight books, including Evil: An Investigation and The Best Year of Their Lives: Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon in 1948. He lives in Chatham, New York.

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