An impressive work of intellect and presentation.

FEELING JEWISH

(A BOOK FOR JUST ABOUT ANYONE)

Unique theories on how “feeling Jewish” plays out not only among secular Jews, but also among individuals with no Jewish heritage.

In alternately playful and academic prose filled with down-to-earth anecdotes and grand theories, Baum (English Literature and Critical Theory/Univ. of Southampton) suggests that in a troubled global village, stereotypes often ascribed to Jews—guilt, hysteria, envy, resentment, self-hatred, extreme mother-love—may have become universal. Throughout history, Jews have been reviled and persecuted, both emulated and envied for their successes. While explaining the concept of feeling Jewish, Baum relies heavily on representations of Jews in novels, memoirs, films, plays, sacred texts, and on psychologists' couches. She makes multiple references to a variety of significant Jewish figures, including Philip Roth, Franz Kafka, Woody Allen, Groucho Marx, and Sigmund Freud. At times, though, Baum examines her own back story, revealing how her reactions to all sorts of occurrences have become linked to how she feels about herself as a Jewish woman. Does she feel shame about her Jewishness? If so, why? If not, what to call her feelings about being Jewish? Does the word “Jew” arrive with a trigger warning in the same way that “black” or “Muslim” or “gay” might? As the author seeks answers, she produces a wide-ranging, deeply original inquiry into modern life. One of Baum’s overarching messages is that in a world where non-Jews as well as Jews perceive themselves as marginalized and thus threatened, stereotypical Jewish feelings seem a good fit in other cultures. “When it comes to feeling panicky, weak, outnumbered, and existentially threatened, Jews are by no means all alone,” writes the author. “Indeed, the sense of dispossession that might be said to underpin resurgent ‘nationalist’ feelings could hardly have more in common with the feelings of those rootless cosmopolitans accused of aggravating them.”

An impressive work of intellect and presentation.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-300-21244-0

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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