A HISTORY OF THE JEWS

A sympathetic portrait of Jewish history that is, unavoidably, sometimes idiosyncratic in its selection of material to include or omit; it's also purposefully careful to focus more on external than internal Jewish life. Indeed, the Jews come off here as a focal point of world history, so that all of civilization's story can be told simply by following the course of Jewish history and fully considering its background. Johnson attempts to do that with mixed, though generally good, results. His focus is on the Jewish people's central message—ethical monotheism—and how that message has been heard and accepted, ignored, or increasingly attacked by a hostile world. Johnson does have a sense that the Jews have been one unified people hurtling their way through a tormented history; this misleading sense of oneness is why he consistently and incorrectly calls the Jews a race. There are many valuable sections of the book. The Biblical section is forthright in its claims that Biblical persons lived, for example. But the strongest part of the book is about the rise of modern Israel. Although the choice of material is even here sometimes arguable, there is no doubt that Johnson captures the spirit of Zionism and explains it with enviable lucidity, care, and depth of feeling. Nor have the extraordinary incidents of Jewish history been robbed of their drama by pedestrian prose. Johnson rises to each occasion as he needs to invoke a setting or a person. A very readable, useful introduction, then, especially to modern Jewish history.

Pub Date: April 1, 1987

ISBN: 0060915331

Page Count: 660

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1987

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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