A worthwhile discussion of a day we take for granted.



Journalist Shulevitz presents a sometimes intriguing, sometimes tortured, exposition on the idea of the Sabbath, from both Jewish and Christian perspectives.

Though the idea of a day of rest seems simple enough, the author reveals layers of complexity that make the Sabbath a formidable topic of study, including history, social structures, economics and the idea of time as something people measure in increments. For instance, in simply trying to define the Sabbath, the author points out that it is social, legal, cultural, political and holy in character. Perhaps in part because of its complexity, the concept is at its most effective in promoting social solidarity, and indeed has been a rallying point within communities for centuries. Nevertheless, the Sabbath is also a troublesome reality for those exposed to it, a tradition “designed to make life as inconvenient as possible.” Shulevitz goes to great lengths to describe her lifelong struggle with the Sabbath—and perhaps with faith itself—in a narrative that demonstrates how living with the Sabbath is often difficult. Never quite at home among observant Jews—“I was a fraud, an imposter, a cliché”—the author nonetheless felt drawn to the tradition of the Sabbath and what it represents in a world that often forgets to slow down. Too often Shulevitz crosses the line by indulging in her own story at the expense of her topic, but she presents a welcome introduction to the idea of Sabbath. Most readers will be challenged to rethink what Saturday or Sunday really means to them.

A worthwhile discussion of a day we take for granted.

Pub Date: March 23, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6200-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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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 20, 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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