A well-researched and stirring account of how various communities, scholars and artists interpret the willingness to...

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BUT WHERE IS THE LAMB?

IMAGINING THE STORY OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC

Goodman (History and Nonfiction Writing/Rutgers Univ.; Blackout, 2003, etc.) recounts the body of knowledge gleaned from his obsession with the biblical story of the Binding of Isaac (the Akedah).

Rather than focusing solely on the story in Genesis, the author progresses well beyond biblical criticism to engage the myriad of interpretations about the Akedah that appear in Jewish, Christian and Islamic exegetical literature. In each tradition, Goodman is struck by certain interpretive peculiarities. For example, in Judaism, he comes across rabbinic accounts where Isaac is, in fact, sacrificed. In Christianity, the author takes issue with how the actual sacrifice of Jesus supersedes the near-sacrifice of Isaac and is used to invalidate central tenets of Judaism through a technique that he calls “supersessionism.” Goodman spends much less time with the Islamic interpretive history, but he mentions the ambiguity surrounding which son of Abraham’s was intended for sacrifice and the implicit argument for the favored status of Ishmael (and his ancestors) when many Islamic accounts mention him as the intended victim. This is also an interesting study on the ways in which the Akedah has appeared in works of art and poetry, and the author considers how Jewish communities used the sacrifice story to contextualize themselves during periods of intense persecution. Although the book may be difficult for a complete neophyte to the world of comparative religion, it is a fast-moving account of a wide-ranging and deeply penetrating religious topic, and Goodman closes with an important reminder on how the subject of sacrifice for religious obedience is relevant to the contemporary issue of religious extremism.

A well-researched and stirring account of how various communities, scholars and artists interpret the willingness to sacrifice life for God.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4253-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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