Jews, Muslims and Christians alike may take offense to Hazleton’s contribution to plurality.

JEZEBEL

THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE BIBLE’S HARLOT QUEEN

A dogged defense of one of the Bible’s most controversial characters, used to grind a few axes.

Hazleton (Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother, 2004 , etc.) aims to peel back centuries of slander and misconception about the character of Jezebel, utilizing modern archeological evidence, textual criticism and her own Mid-East experience. However, she leaps beyond the realm of biblical criticism to create a character all her own. The author’s Jezebel is a beautiful, proud, cosmopolitan queen, a model of civility set against the rugged milieu of backwater Israel. She is also virtually guiltless, her only fault apparently being a well-earned arrogance as the worldly queen of the uncouth. Hazleton presents Jezebel in such a light largely to juxtapose her to her arch-enemy, the prophet Elijah—who the author palpably, almost viciously, disdains. But Hazleton’s rehabilitation of Jezebel is a secondary aim. Her main theme is what she sees as an ageless struggle between civilized plurality and tolerance on one hand, and destructive fundamentalism on the other. Elijah—who she compares to both al-Qaeda operative al-Zawahiri and Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin—is squarely in the fundamentalist camp. The prophet, described as “downright feral,” is the antithesis of Hazleton’s Jezebel, who understood tolerance and statecraft and stood almost alone in ancient Israel against “fanaticism and intolerance.” The implications for today are obvious: “Elijah issues the classic challenge, heard everywhere from Islamist madrasas and hard-line yeshivas to evangelical seminaries: you’re one of us, or one of them.” The author’s attempt to resurrect the reputation of Jezebel is certainly hindered by her own heavy-handed rhetoric. She argues correctly that Jezebel’s name has been used (and misused) throughout time for the purposes of advancing separate arguments. But with this book, she does exactly that.

Jews, Muslims and Christians alike may take offense to Hazleton’s contribution to plurality.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-51614-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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