A vivid and discerning tour through a land that reflects this epochal figure’s life of exile, questioning, family...



Visiting an Israel of checkpoints and suicide bombings, Feiler (Walking the Bible, 2001, etc.) gracefully explores how the ancient Middle Eastern exile and childless husband became the father of many nations—and the progenitor of religious conflict.

Though lost in the mists of history (probably only a few Jews had heard of him by the time of King David), Abraham made an indelible impact as the first monotheist. Indeed, the lack of documentary evidence encouraged myriad reconstructions of his life. Talking to scholars and religious leaders, Feiler ponders how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam “took a biblical figure open to all, tossed out what they wanted to ignore, ginned up what they wanted to stress” to create an exclusionary symbol. During the Babylonian captivity, Jews saw in Abraham another exile who had experienced countless trials. St. Paul adopted the patriarch as an example of faith preceding Mosaic law, a useful device for opening Christianity to the Gentiles. Muhammad identified Abraham as a precursor of himself, someone strongly associated with Arabia, yet ready to break with his polytheist forebears. Taking account of centuries of these reinterpretations, Feiler insightfully reconsiders the central episodes of Abraham’s saga: the initial call by God; Abraham’s passive acceptance of Sarah’s demand that he cast out his offspring Ishmael (now viewed by Moslems as their ancestor); his challenge to God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah; and, most chillingly, the sacrifice of Isaac, which poses the question of whether devotion to God requires killing. In the end, Feiler embraces another Abraham: “a bridge between humanity and the divine, who demonstrates the example of what it means to be faithful but who also delivers to us God’s blessing on earth.”

A vivid and discerning tour through a land that reflects this epochal figure’s life of exile, questioning, family misunderstandings, and faith.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97776-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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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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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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