A fine contribution to both the emerging fields of men’s studies and the more popular, accessible branch of Jewish studies. Salkin, a Long Island—based congregational rabbi and author of Putting God on Your Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah and of Being God’s Partner, establishes Judaism as a counter-tradition to the general culture’s conception of masculinity. Thus, as opposed to the rugged individualism of the “Marlboro man,” it emphasizes brains and speech instead of brawn and action, and ethical behavior in lieu of individual achievement. The real Jewish man, Salkin states, is a mensch in his business practices, speech, and family life. Nor is he afraid to be as emotionally vulnerable as his model, the ultimate Jewish Father; Salkin includes a rabbinic story of God weeping after the destruction of the Jews” Temple by the Romans. At times, this “feminine” focus on the intellectual, ethical, and emotive has been a problem for real Jewish boys, adolescents, and men, although Zionism, with its championing of “muscular Judaism,” and the military exploits of the State of Israel, has provided an important corrective. Salkin also shows how Jewish teachings promote a healthy, balanced perspective towards ambition, work, women, and sex. He does so by drawing extensively upon the Torah and upon the short rabbinic homiletic narratives known as midrashim, as well as upon personal, family, and congregational anecdotes. Salkin’s popularization inevitably leads to some simplification, as when he states that “Jews had lived their lives for centuries in Europe . . . through the patterns of docility and acquiescence.” Far more often, however, he beautifully integrates texts or anecdotes with a discussion of some aspect of Jewish masculinity. He has particularly excellent chapters on two male Jewish rites of passage: the bris (circumcision) and the Bar Mitzvah. And he writes fluidly and crisply throughout. His book contains no rhetorical or narrative fat; it is—a rare achievement these days—just the right length. Given the rich array of texts he marshals, Salkin should appeal not only to many Jewish men—and women—but also to others who seek guidance on becoming a mensch of a man.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-14573-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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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 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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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