READING RUTH

CONTEMPORARY WOMEN RECLAIM A SACRED STORY

A generally superb collection of both traditional and unorthodox readings of the Book of Ruth. The biblical story of Ruth—the young Moabite widow who followed her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, to the Land of Israel, married her husband's kinsman, and became mother of the messianic line through her descendant, King David—is an intriguing one, especially for women, who find few active female role models in the Bible. Kates, and Reimer, both teachers of Jewish texts with doctorates in literature, have assembled 30 essays, poems, stories, and dramatic narratives by contemporary female scholars, authors, psychiatrists, rabbis, and poets. All the contributors bring their professional and personal experiences to their interpretations of the Ruth story: Some are subjective accounts, such as the joint effort (``Feminine Plurals'') of psychiatrists Roberta Apfel and Lise Grondahl—an older Jewish supervisor and her young Christian supervisee—who use the relationship between Naomi and Ruth to understand and enrich their own; others, like Tamar Frankiel's kabbalistic approach to the messianic lineage in Ruth (``Ruth and the Messiah''), are more strictly scholarly. Often the two aspects are combined: Cynthia Ozick's ``Ruth'' is one part personal reminiscence, three parts textual analysis. These autobiographical and scholarly pieces are nearly always more interesting than the vanilla literary retellings of the story that add little to the conventional understanding of the text, although Gloria Goldreich's inclusion of Ruth's sister-in-law, Orpah, in her ``Ruth, Naomi, and Orpah: A Parable of Friendship'' adds a beautiful dimension to the relationship of Ruth and Naomi. Aviva Zornberg's shiur, or oral lesson, ``The Concealed Alternative,'' stands out as the most unusual; she draws on ancient commentaries as well as on Kafka, Nietzsche, and Buber to present a compelling understanding of the concept of redemption in Ruth. Despite occasional redundancies—only natural given the 400 pages of commentary on a brief text—this book is absorbing and provocative.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-345-38033-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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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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