Mamet scolds and laments in this provocative addition to the Jewish Encounters series.

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THE WICKED SON

ANTI-SEMITISM, SELF-HATRED, AND THE JEWS

Playwright, novelist, filmmaker and essayist Mamet (South of the Northeast Kingdom, 2002, etc.) angrily preaches an emphatic sermon to anti-Semites—Jewish anti-Semites in particular.

“The world hates the Jews,” his discourse begins. Mamet wrestles with this persistent hatred by addressing co-religionists who distance themselves from their brethren. Those Jews, he says, are embodied in the person of the wicked son who separates himself from the group in the old Passover story; they are apostates and race traitors who do not know what they have forsaken. Mamet prescribes corrective medicine in many small doses. He instructs on what may have escaped those he scorns. He would heal the patent error and evident anomie of the ignorant with discussion of various matters, including myth and reality, sex, lies, superstition, shul management, the beset State of Israel, bar mitzvahs that encourage adoration of the golden calf and Santa Claus. His text is, of course, an angry jeremiad, and his classification of Judaism in terms of race could, in some quarters, be provocative. But, like Jeremiah, Mamet also preaches return and redemption. His bravura syntax scatters parentheses, dashes, footnotes and commas in abundance; his orotund vocabulary encompasses words like “miching,” “uncathected” and “benignantly.” Clearly, this isn’t the Mamet who transfixed us three decades ago with American Buffalo. And yet his argument is worth close attention and his book worth rereading. It is an admonition to “adversary intellectuals,” as Eric Hoffer termed them (In Our Time, 1976), and a rebuke to those who heedlessly reject an ancient heritage. Anyone wishing to better understand the condition of Judaism today might learn from the author’s flamboyant screed.

Mamet scolds and laments in this provocative addition to the Jewish Encounters series.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2006

ISBN: 0-8052-4207-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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