An extraordinary, pathbreaking scholarly achievement: an annotated anthology of interpretations of ancient (mostly 100 b.c.300 a.d.) interpretations of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) culled from hundreds of sources. ``Interpretation'' here often refers to the homiletical expansion of a biblical narrative—known in the Jewish tradition as midrash—particularly to fill in narrative gaps and vague allusions, or to resolve morally problematic passages. Kugel, a professor of Hebrew literature and the Bible at Harvard and Israel's Bar-Ilan University, notes in a penetrating opening essay that his focus is on ``exegetical motifs.'' He notes basic principles that underlie ancient biblical interpretation, including a view of the Scriptures as ``omnisignificant,'' that is, containing meaning in even the smallest details. Jewish and Christian exegetes also expanded the prosaic to lend greater resonance to seemingly minor matters. For example, Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai interpreted Deuteronomy 27:17, ``Cursed be he who displaces his neighbor's boundary-mark,'' and Proverbs 22:28, ``Do not displace that boundary mark of old set by your father,'' by adding, ``If you see a custom of your forefathers observed, do not reject it.'' Thus, a law whose literal focus was on property was homiletically expanded to emphasize the ``boundary'' of religious tradition. Kugel's great achievement is to demonstrate again and again, with hundreds of fascinating examples, how the integrity of the text was both respected and reinterpreted by authors as varied as those of the apocrypha, the earliest midrashim, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the early Church fathers. His own interpretive comments are consistently clear and engaging. This volume, which will be savored by both Jewish and Christian lovers of Scripture, richly illustrates Kugel's point that what we know as ``the Bible'' is really a series of texts filtered through the imaginative perceptions of its ancient exegetes. (24 illustrations, not seen) (History Book Club main selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-674-06940-4

Page Count: 700

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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