A fast-paced and engaging biblical dramatization.

The Tragedy of Moses

A revisionary look at the story of Moses.

Kanbar (Don’t Let Your Film Die, 2015, etc.) prefaces his fun, poetic take by listing some of the questions surrounding the enigmatic, titular biblical figure—the foremost being: why does God refuse to let him enter the Promised Land? Moses’ tragedy, and particularly the fact that his fate is so out of synch with his service, holds a fascination for Kanbar. This book is his fanciful, speculative attempt at filling in gaps in the story, taking the form of a stage drama along the lines of the Broadway hit Hamilton. In it, a “Leader” takes on expository narration duties, but there are also speaking parts for a wide variety of characters from Scripture, including Moses; his brother, Aaron; the pharaoh who kept the Israelites in bondage in Egypt; a chorus of Israelites; and God himself. Kanbar opts not to adopt the stilted cadences of the King James Bible; instead, he uses a conversational, slangy diction throughout as he takes his audience through the familiar events of Moses’ life, from killing an Egyptian overseer (“This Egyptian dude / is goin’ to be dead”) to confronting the pharaoh and repeatedly demanding that the Israelites be set free. The pharaoh at one point responds, “You sound like a broken record. / Losing free labor, you know, / would cost me a lot of dough. / So the answer is still ‘No.’ ” Each segment begins with some spirited scene-setting by the Leader, proceeds through dramatic exchanges that often sound as if they’re meant to be sung rather than spoken, and concludes with a “Source and Commentary” paragraph for readers. The characters’ contemporary-sounding dialogue doesn’t always work, and it often feels forced (as when one character shouts out “Oy vey!”). Even so, the dramatic format does an effective job of dusting off these canonical characters and holding them up to fresh scrutiny. Indeed, Kanbar’s enthusiasm is so infectious that readers will wish the “Source and Commentary” sections were longer.

A fast-paced and engaging biblical dramatization.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5394-4168-7

Page Count: 118

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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 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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