An interesting concept deserving of twice the effort.



The great patriarch as a template for Jewish lawyers across the ages.

Famed Harvard attorney Dershowitz (Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law, 2013, etc.) presents Abraham, father of three religions, as the original Jewish lawyer. Describing him as “an idol smasher, a conniver, a rescuer, an advocate, a compliant fundamentalist, and a shrewd real estate investor, the author identifies a wide range of lawyerly traits, good and bad, in the portrait of the patriarch provided by Scripture and the Midrash. Dershowitz begins with an overview of what little we know of the life of Abraham, along the way pointing out legal touches in the story. For instance, he argued like a defense attorney for the lives of the people of Sodom, and in procuring a burial plot for his wife, he negotiated like a real estate attorney might. Dershowitz goes on to look at Jews as defendants. He examines a few specific examples, such as Alfred Dreyfus and Leo Frank, but his focus is much more global. He asserts that the very injustice suffered by the Jews over the course of centuries has honed their collective respect and aptitude for the law. “Jews have come to appreciate justice and the rule of law,” writes the author, “because we have experienced so much injustice and the rule of might over right.” Dershowitz profiles a number of great Jewish lawyers from the modern era as well. The author begins with a great concept, but the effort seems lacking. A comprehensive look at Abraham as a proto-lawyer, influencing future generations, would be a welcome and fascinating addition to the corpus of Jewish studies. Dershowitz only provides a cursory glance here, but the book, replete with Jewish jokes and Woody Allen quotes, is a homey start.

An interesting concept deserving of twice the effort.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4293-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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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 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...


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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