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THE WAY OF HUMANITY

ACCORDING TO CHASIDIC TEACHING

Timeless wisdom made fresh and accessible.

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Mehlman and Padawer present a new translation of Buber’s classic work of philosophy.

Martin Buber was one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century, probably best known for I and Thou (1923), in which he argues that humanity reaches its fullest expression in relationships with God and with other people. In this collection of talks he gave in 1947, the author presents legends and parables that exemplify his understanding of Chasidic Judaism, adding his own thoughts on these stories. The God who emerges from these tales is a paradox: infinite and ineffable, but also ever present. This is a God who meets people where they are. The rabbis we encounter here are similarly puzzling: They are renowned for their wisdom, but when followers come to them for guidance, these holy men invariably instruct their questioners to look inside themselves for answers. Their philosophy is perhaps best summarized by Rabbi Eliezer when he says, “Forget yourself and have the whole world in mind!” Buber, however, is a warm and generous guide. Taken as a whole, his meditations on these tales articulate an openhearted philosophy of living centered on service, and Mehlman and Padawer have followed his lead in crafting this very inviting translation. The syntax they use is elegantly simple, and contemporary readers will appreciate their use of gender-neutral language. Scholarly supplemental material makes up a considerable portion of this slender volume, and its presence is a valuable addition. While it’s true that the translators’ comments on the text would have been easier to process as footnotes than as endnotes, their observations are immensely helpful. Two forewords, a translators’ introduction, and a substantive and fascinating epilogue offer valuable guidance and context—even to the reader who may already be familiar with this work.

Timeless wisdom made fresh and accessible.

Pub Date: July 10, 2023

ISBN: 9780881236378

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Reform Judaism Publishing (CCAR Press)

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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CALYPSO

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

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In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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