Another winner from a skillful writer and thinker of the first rank.

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JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM

HOW THE ANCIENT CITY IGNITED OUR MODERN WORLD

A sound, deeply felt study of Jerusalem as the “cockpit of violence” for the three Abrahamic religions.

An American Catholic who has long been “infected with Jerusalem fever,” Carroll (Practicing Catholic, 2009, etc.) is fascinated by the role of violence in forging mankind’s early spiritual urge. Ritual sacrifice was a component of early religion, an acting out of the “collective effervescence” of the hunt, perhaps, and an antidote to further violence by the use of a scapegoat. The author draws heavily from anthropologist René Girard, but especially from his own deep readings of the Bible, first in showing how the God of Abraham was both the scourge of man and the repudiator of human sacrifice. Jerusalem became the locus of monotheism (a term not coined until the 17th century). For Jews, it was the absence held dear during the Babylonian exile and later the forced diaspora by the Romans (a “remembered” Jerusalem); for Christians, it was the place where Jesus went to cleanse the Temple, where he was scapegoated by the rabble and where the “True Cross” was later discovered by Constantine’s mother; for Muslims, it was toward Jerusalem that Mohammed originally faced in prayer. It became a place of “fierce longing,” setting up the bloody conflicts of the Crusades and Reformation. Carroll makes an interesting segue into the Puritan separatists’ founding of the New World as the New Jerusalem, “an understanding that would serve as a permanent pillar of the American imagination.” The author moves more gingerly through the modern era, with the founding of the state of Israel and the perpetuation of violence through politics and war. Carroll ends sagely with some ways “good religion” can push out “bad religion,” such as in a celebration of life, not death; a respect for plurality; a concern with revelation over salvation; and a repudiation of coercion and injustice.

Another winner from a skillful writer and thinker of the first rank.

Pub Date: March 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-19561-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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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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