Hughes offers a worthwhile study of Neusner’s life but little about the substance of his work.

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JACOB NEUSNER

AN AMERICAN JEWISH ICONOCLAST

The life story of the father of modern Jewish studies.

In this respectfully balanced biography, Hughes (Jewish Studies/Univ. of Rochester) explores the life of Jacob Neusner (b. 1932), a renowned scholar of Judaism and a controversial figure in the American academy. Born in 1932 to a Reform Jewish family in Connecticut, Neusner soon showed significant academic promise, which would result in his education at Harvard, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Oxford, and Yale. Hughes goes to great lengths to set the stage for Neusner’s entry into post-biblical Jewish scholarship, explaining that he was among the first to enter the field from a critical, secular standpoint as opposed to rabbinic or yeshiva routes. As such, he had to struggle for acceptance and basically created the field of Judaic studies that exists today. Neusner’s academic career took him to a variety of universities, and in each place, he caused substantial waves through his groundbreaking views on Jewish studies and his own personality, which Hughes describes as “colorful, mercurial, controversial, [and] often bordering on the outrageous.” From the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Neusner moved on to Dartmouth and then to Brown, where his interpersonal conflicts with administrators, faculty, and students reached a fevered pitch, causing his early retirement. He completed his career with appointments at the University of South Florida and Bard. Hughes also covers Neusner’s forays into conservative politics. The author presents an interesting and widely accessible life story that should appeal to readers interested in American Judaism, Jewish studies, or the academy itself. However, he provides only scant details of Neusner’s actual contributions to his chosen field. “It is unfortunate that when Neusner is remembered,” writes Hughes, “it is primarily because of his notoriously difficult personality, and not necessarily on account of his massively important contributions to the study of rabbinics and religious studies.”

Hughes offers a worthwhile study of Neusner’s life but little about the substance of his work.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4798-8585-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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