A must for the bookshelf of any Jewish sports fan.

JEWISH JOCKS

AN UNORTHODOX HALL OF FAME

A collection of essays about the most influential Jews in sports history.

New Republic editor Foer (How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, 2005) and New Republic staff writer Tracy present a diverse collection of Jewish athletes celebrated by Jewish authors. Many of the 50 athletes included—e.g., Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, Sid Luckman, Mark Spitz—will be familiar even to non-Jewish sports fans, while others—table-tennis star Marty Reisman, Nazi-era German fencing champ Helene Mayer, kung-fu instructor Harvey Sober and “the Ben Franklin of Competitive Eating,” Don Lerman—will not. The list of contributors is also distinguished, with several Pulitzer Prize winners, Ivy League professors, novelists and even former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. The essays range from standard profiles to personal reminiscences. Most, but not all, of the athletes are American. In addition to Joshua Cohen’s piece on Mayer, there is Simon Schama’s fascinating essay about English pugilist Daniel Mendoza, David Bezmozgis’ profile of Soviet strongman Grigory Novak and Timothy Snyder’s piece on Austro-Hungarian author Max Nordau, whose speech to the 1898 Second Zionist Congress called on Jews to develop their muscles to overcome weakness. This theme of athleticism counteracting the stereotype of the Jew as weak victim runs through many of the essays, though it may be slightly undermined by the application of the “jock” title to Nordau and other nonathletes, such as gambler and 1919 World Series fixer Arnold Rothstein, Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich and broadcast legend Howard Cosell. Their inclusion on the basis of their significant impacts on the landscape of sports is, however, well-defended by Foer and Tracy. Other highlights include Jonathan Safran Foer on Bobby Fischer, Steven Pinker on Red Auerbach, Buzz Bissinger on Barney Ross and George Packer on Mark Cuban.

A must for the bookshelf of any Jewish sports fan.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4555-1613-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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