MAIMONIDES

A portrait in brief of a remarkable scholar/philosopher/physician of the 12th century, and an examination of the long tradition of Jewish healing.

In this second volume in the Jewish Encounters series, Nuland, a surgeon and NBA-winning author (How We Die, 1994, etc.), sketches the religious and political tensions of the time, chronicling the Maimon family’s wanderings around the Mediterranean in search of a place to live. Moses ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides, settled in Islamic Egypt, where his driving purpose was preservation of the Jewish community, a task demanding strong leadership. As a young man, Maimondes became the spiritual leader of Jews in Saladin’s kingdom and the foremost scholar of his time. Nuland sifts out the facts from the many legends and myths surrounding Maimonides, and for readers unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, carefully explains the significance of his major religious works, which incorporate science and philosophy into religious thought. Maimonides possessed a remarkable mind for observing and interpreting the world, and a powerful talent for collecting, codifying and clarifying. If the portrait of the man himself is hazy, Nuland cannot be blamed, for details of Maimonides’ personal and family life are obscure. What is known is that tradition forbade him from making a living as a rabbi, and when his brother’s ship was lost at sea, taking the family fortune with it, Maimonides turned to the practice of medicine for income. Already a prominent public figure, he was soon made a physician in Saladdin’s court. Nuland concludes that Maimonides, who inspired centuries of Jewish physicians, should be revered for his devotion to the Jewish people and the progressive worldview he brought to theology. An appendix briefly discusses his medical writings.

A fine distillation.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2005

ISBN: 0-8052-4200-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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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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