Following their previous collaboration, this is another zany book for Jews and those who love them.

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A FIELD GUIDE TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE

Three comic writers delve into what it means to be Jewish.

Barry, Mansbach, and Zweibel (For This We Left Egypt? A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them, 2017) team up again in an irreverent take on Jewish life, culture, and lore. No topic is off limits for jokes that range from silly to sophomoric: the Holocaust (“there was still, in the end, a positive side of the Holocaust,” the authors declare, before abruptly changing their minds); the Arab-Israeli conflict (Israel has won all wars since 1948 “because militarily the Israeli armed forces are the Harlem Globetrotters of the Middle East”); and anti-Semitism. “Are you an anti-Semite?” the authors ask, providing a quiz to test which of many Jewish stereotypes a responder believes. Are Jews “opinionated, pushy, and prone to butting in?” Or are they “clannish, secretive, and reclusive”? Either answer will brand you as an anti-Semite. More Jewish stereotypes fuel jokes about Jewish customs, holidays, food, attitudes toward interfaith marriage, teachings of the Talmud, and, not least, sex: “Q. What is Jewish foreplay? A. Three hours of begging.” Of the three authors, Barry, a Presbyterian married to a Cuban-Jewish woman, is not “technically Jewish,” but he admits that he has attended many High Holiday services, “some of which lasted longer than the Korean conflict.” The authors found that they had to bone up on the Old Testament and the “incredibly weird shit” in the Torah to make fun of biblical stories, people, and God’s sometimes-incomprehensible commandments, such as the requirement that every male newborn be circumcised. “A surprising amount of research goes into the crafting of every single cheap dick joke we write,” Mansbach reveals. Although some readers might be offended by the repeated characterization of Jews as cheap, argumentative, and opinionated—“two Jews, three opinions” the saying goes—Barry sees self-deprecating Jewish humor as “an important psychological mechanism for coping with misfortune, and Jews have had a LOT of misfortune, especially when you compare them to the Presbyterians.”

Following their previous collaboration, this is another zany book for Jews and those who love them.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-19196-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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