A meaty, worthwhile biography by a great interpreter of Jewish texts.

MOSES

A HUMAN LIFE

A unique examination of Moses.

In her latest book, National Jewish Book Award winner Zornberg (Bewilderments: Reflections on the Book of Numbers, 2015, etc.) presents a rich, erudite study of Moses. This is a true readers’ biography, drawing on a full range of commentators and writers, including the great ancient rabbis, more modern scholars and philosophers, and secular writers ranging from George Eliot to W.G. Sebald. The author seeks to find the human Moses behind the great biblical legend; this is not the same as seeking a “historical Moses” but instead, a discovery of the humanity behind the great leader of Israel. To do so, Zornberg painstakingly excavates seemingly familiar passages for hidden nuances and signs of Moses’ own trials. She finds, among other things, a man of two cultures and two peoples yet comfortable in and accepted by neither. She finds a man lacking the confidence to address his people directly yet willing to make demands and complaints to God himself. She finds a man who encounters his people both veiled, and thus cryptic and unknowable, and also unveiled as a vulnerable leader. Finally, she finds in Moses a man who wrote his own story. What we know of Moses we know through the books of Moses. He is his own biographer. With the help of the many thinkers Zornberg cites, readers are introduced to nuanced yet eye-opening new views and interpretations of otherwise familiar texts. For instance, at the Burning Bush, God tells Moses, “they will listen to your voice,” but Moses eventually argues, “they will not listen to my voice.” God then delegates Aaron to do the speaking, but Zornberg asks if God’s plans might have been more readily fulfilled had Moses himself believed in the promise and spoken for God as originally planned.

A meaty, worthwhile biography by a great interpreter of Jewish texts.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-300-20962-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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