An accessible, neatly narrated story of hallowed detritus and the resurrection of nearly 1,000 years of culture and learning.

SACRED TRASH

THE LOST AND FOUND WORLD OF THE CAIRO GENIZA

Poet and essayist Hoffman (My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century, 2009, etc.) and poet and translator Cole (Things On Which I’ve Stumbled, 2008, etc.) chronicle the disinterment of an ancient stash of Hebrew scholarship.

This absorbing academic detective story begins in Cambridge in 1896, when renowned Hebraist Solomon Schecter encountered twin sisters who told him about a synagogue in Old Cairo that contained vast gathering of documents which had been given proper entombment centuries earlier. The scholar promptly traveled to the cache—the “Geniza”—at the ancient Ben Ezra Synagogue where he found a huge, musty treasure of hitherto unknown Judaica. The material, pungent with the age of the earliest days of the second millennium, was written on paper and vellum in a variety of languages, though all used Hebrew orthography. Everyday letters and business correspondence formed a new portrait of the lives of medieval Jews. Most spectacular, especially in the case of a people who put much of their achievements and teaching in writing, was the recovery of liturgical poetry and wisdom from the Golden Age of Jewish Literature in Muslim Iberia. Hoffman and Cole are adroit in their exegesis of the writings of figures like Ben Sira and poet and philosopher Judah Halevi, and the authors pay appropriate tribute to the devoted scholars who arduously sifted through the dust of centuries. The Cairo Geniza has produced an important branch of scholarly discipline that continues today.

An accessible, neatly narrated story of hallowed detritus and the resurrection of nearly 1,000 years of culture and learning.

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4258-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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