PIETY AND POWER

THE WORLD OF JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM

An engaging look into the philosophies and lifestyles of the various sects of Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists. Landau (an editor of the Israeli daily Haaretz) examines the resurgence of haredism and its sociopolitical impact. Though he describes haredi ghettos in London, N.Y.C., and elsewhere, he focuses primarily on Israeli sects, delineating their newly emerged political power and predicting a growing role for them in Israeli's future: Haredi mentor ``Rabbi Shach's decision in March 1990 to support the [right wing] Likud was the most momentous event in Israeli politics for years.'' Both the rightist Likud and the left- leaning Labor parties woo the haredim with financial support for their institutions of learning and with draft deferments for their ubiquitous Talmudic academy students. Landau documents the extent of all this kosher political pork, tracing it back to Israeli's founding years. Though he remains objective throughout, he depicts the 92-year-old spiritual leader of Degel Hatorah as backward and bigoted and cites a Hasidic editor who warns against ``talking with disgusting heretics.'' More appealing are Landau's portraits of more tolerant leaders like Rabbi Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Sephardic Jews from North Africa and the Near East. Landau also details the schisms that divide the sects from one another, and the even wider breach between them and the National Religious Party, representing the Modern Orthodox in Israel. While Modern Orthodox are, for the most part, fervent nationalists, the haredim, the author says, see the sinfully secular state of Israel as ``a vindication of their anti- Zionism.'' Landau concludes with a fascinating study of the fierce debate in Israel and beyond on ``Who is a Jew?,'' suggesting that ``the dismissal of haredism as anachronistic may itself be an anachronism.'' A valuable, well-researched study of this misunderstood minority of a minority. (Appended with a solid bibliography and a glossary of both Yiddish and Hebrew terms.)

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8090-7605-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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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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