This ambitious and worthy effort would be far more effective if told in a voice that was less shrill and more eloquent. But...

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SPIRIT MATTERS

A comprehensive manifesto calling for the development of a socially and environmentally responsible spirituality.

Tikkun editor Lerner (Jewish Renewal, 1994) is a former Clinton guru who helped develop the ill-fated “Politics of Meaning” some years back. Here he tries to hit the comeback trail with this earnest, long-winded, radical attempt at giving American society some spiritual CPR—an effort sorely in need of details, parables, or (at the very least) a sense of humor. Lerner anticipates a great spiritual awakening in our millennium, after which market profits will no longer dictate the cultural bottom line. Instead, a GNP of spiritual happiness, oneness with our creator (and creation), social responsibility, and goodness will transform our institutions and prevail throughout our noncompetitive globe. The idols of amoral scientism and unchecked greed will be toppled. The lubricant for this messianic world will not be religion: the organized religions, in Lerner’s view, peddle a “reactionary spirituality” that is given to veiling women and circumcising men. Lerner’s God, on the other hand, is “the force of healing and transformation in the Universe,” and his “emancipatory spirituality” will challenge the male chauvinism that objectifies women. Too many of Lerner’s fine sentiments and proposals (for sharing resources equitably, forcing corporations and nations to be accountable for social and environmental sins, and reforming law and education) are hortatory rather than specific, and his spirituality in general has too many syllables to catch fire. His treatise is so warm and fuzzy that the bibliography is called “Supportive Reading” (although Lerner is not shy about plugging his own magazine ad nauseam).

This ambitious and worthy effort would be far more effective if told in a voice that was less shrill and more eloquent. But that would require a different author.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-57174-195-X

Page Count: 340

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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An informative, nostalgic evocation of a special urban dining experience.

THE DAIRY RESTAURANT

An account of once-popular New York restaurants that had a rich social and cultural history.

“Since, by choice or historical necessity, exile and travel were defining aspects of Jewish life, somewhere a Jew was always eating out,” observes cartoonist and MacArthur fellow Katchor (Illustration/Parsons, the New School; Hand-Drying in America, 2013, etc.) in his exhaustively researched, entertaining, and profusely illustrated history of Jewish dining preferences and practices. The Garden of Eden, he notes wryly, was “the first private eating place open to the public,” serving as a model for all the restaurants that came after: cafes, cafeterias, buffets, milk halls, lunch counters, diners, delicatessens, and, especially, dairy restaurants, a favorite destination among New York Jews, which Katchor remembers from his wanderings around the city as a young adult. Dairy restaurants, because they served no meat, attracted diners who observed kosher laws; many boasted a long menu that included items such as mushroom cutlet, blintzes, broiled fish, vegetarian liver, and fried eggplant steak. Attracted by the homey appearance and “forlorn” atmosphere of these restaurants, Katchor set out to uncover their history, engaging in years of “aimless reading in the libraries of New York and on the pages of the internet,” where he found menus, memoirs, telephone directories, newspaper ads, fiction, and food histories that fill the pages of his book with colorful anecdotes, trivia, and food lore. Although dairy restaurants were popular with Jewish immigrants, their advent in the U.S. predated immigrants’ demand for Eastern European meatless dishes. The milk hall, often located in parks, resorts, or spas, gained popularity throughout 19th-century Europe. Franz Kafka, for example, treated himself to a glass of sour milk from a milk pavilion after a day in a Prague park. Jews were not alone in embracing vegetarianism. In Europe and America, shunning meat was inspired by several causes, including utopian socialism, which sought to distance itself from “the beef-eating aristocracy”; ethical preferences; and health concerns. A meatless diet relieved digestive problems, many sufferers found.

An informative, nostalgic evocation of a special urban dining experience.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4219-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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