THE PRICE OF EXCELLENCE

UNIVERSITIES IN CONFLICT DURING THE COLD WAR ERA

A curious hybrid: part history of the American university during the Cold War years, part memoir of the elder (Jacob) Neusner's five decades as perhaps America's leading Judaica scholar. Neither part works. Neusner Sr. is the hyperprolific author of hundreds of works on the nature and evolution of talmudic Judaism; son Noam is a reporter for the Tampa Tribune; together, they provide a brief and rather superficial history of the postWW II American university that is informed by a distinctly neoconservative bias: Recently, faculties supposedly have become radicalized; teachers pander to student wishes, curricula are standardless and rigidly politically correct; students are pampered and left intellectually unchallenged. At times, their tone deteriorates into Rush Limbaughlike rhetoric, such as a reference to academic ``fascist feminism.'' Meanwhile, in describing a supposedly pre-'60s ``golden age'' of academia, the Neusners somehow forget to mention the influence of McCarthyism or the CIA's efforts to infiltrate campus faculty. The memoir sections are no better. While Jacob Neusner has some interesting things to say about his own pedagogic ideals, particularly the desirability and necessity of balancing good teaching with good scholarship, his tone often is grandiose, as if he were the only one doing important work in Jewish studies. He writes about numerous colleagues with transparent contempt (about named and unnamed ``scholars of Judaism'' at the Jewish Theological Seminary, he claims, ``They confused their opinions with facts, cultivated obscurity, and practiced obfuscation''). At the end of his career, isolated after almost three decades at Brown University (he is now at the Univ. of South Florida) in part because of his abrasive personal and rhetorical style, Neusner sounds kvetchy, self-pitying, and bitter; one of his chapter subheadings reads ``A Career Concludes, The Ostracism Continues.'' Poor Jacob Neusner, poor readerthis is dreary stuff from an admirably productive, often insightful scholar.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8264-0853-2

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Continuum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1995

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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