The verse sparkles and the visuals shine in this volume that examines Genesis.

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The Seven Days of Creation

POETRY AND ART INSPIRED BY THE TORAH AND OTHER HOLY SCRIPTURES

A book offers a multimedia celebration of Jewish Scripture.

In the Jewish tradition, words have power—real power. According to the first verses of the Hebrew Bible (or Torah), God created the cosmos with speech. For Jews, then, the story of the world’s making shows that the phonemes that spill from their mouths possess an unimaginable potency. Jinnett (The Olive Tree in the Shadow of the Second Temple, 2015, etc.) reminds readers of this fact in the opening piece of his new collection inspired by the Torah: “In the watery depths / twenty-two fiery letters / swirled; / the aleph-beit of Hebrew, / building blocks of the world.” If God made the universe out of words, then the world is divine poetry. What more appropriate reply than to write poetry in return? The author focuses on the first few chapters of Genesis, in which God builds the world in seven days. Thus, a poem from the section entitled “Fifth Day: Fish and Fowl” gives readers a glimpse of the wonders of the deep: “And—oh—what a sight / was our undersea feast, / with conch shells of food, / near thousands at least.” Yet the book is no slavish retelling; the themes of Creation send Jinnett on flights of fancy that set him down in other parts of the biblical narrative. Hence, the aforementioned “undersea feast” reminds him of the Great Flood of Genesis and the birds Noah releases from the ark. Thus readers have “Raven’s Song,” which opens lyrically: “I remember how it was before the rains, / when waves kissed sand as waters lapped the shore, / gentle sounds like lovers make when they embrace.” Like the scriptural model on which it is built, this volume is fresh, dynamic, and readable. Its only real flaw remains its cumbersome configuration. The first half of the book features Jinnett’s poetry. But the second half awkwardly reproduces those works in their entirety—this time with extensive footnotes that flesh out references to Scripture and commentary. The information is valuable, but the exposition is bulky and didactic. Further, buried among these piles of explanatory text are gorgeous original artworks by Bowden, all of which deserve better placement. A more streamlined structure would make this good book great.

The verse sparkles and the visuals shine in this volume that examines Genesis.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5301-2671-2

Page Count: 106

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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