Furious blast at anti-Semitism and the liberals who tolerate it. Wisse (Yiddish Studies/McGill Univ.) casts her study as a love letter to a fictional ``B'' in order to overcome the ``humiliation'' and ``exhaustion'' she feels when writing about anti-Semitism—but this device does nothing to soften her rhetoric or to cloak her rage. Anti-Semitism, which Wisse calls ``the most durable ideology of the twentieth-century,'' seems to be on the rise in America (see William Buckley's In Search of Anti-Semitism—reviewed above) and the world. Who's to blame? Among the most culpable, says Wisse, are non-Jewish liberals who ``sacrifice Jews to liberal pieties.'' Because of their belief in rationality and progress, Wisse argues, these liberals find anti-Semitism ``unthinkable'' and thus fail to see it when it appears in modern form, such as in opposition to the state of Israel (i.e., the ``demonization'' of Israel in the liberal media). Liberal Jews are guilty as well, for playing ostrich or, even worse, for self-hatred that leads to abetting the enemy: Noam Chomsky's anti-Israel stance is cited as ``a sublimating attempt to get beyond the condition of Jewish specificity once and for all.'' Franz Kafka, Isaac Babel, and Irving Kristol win Wisse's approval for giving anti-Semites no ground, while Amos Oz is the most prominent Jewish writer to suffer her wrath. But Wisse saves her strongest venom for the Arabs, whom she accuses of ``holding Jews responsible for the crimes they intended to commit against them.'' She scores points when noting Arab mistreatment of Palestinian refugees and PLO diplomatic duplicity, yet too often her own crude anti-Arab bias clouds her arguments (for instance, in stereotyping Arabs as ``an imperial people contemptuous of weakness''). Well-argued agitprop but tainted by the very sort of bigotry that Wisse decries. Nonetheless, an important book, likely to generate intense discussion.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 1992

ISBN: 0-02-935434-X

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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