WHAT IS TRUE SUCCESS?

EXPLORING ANSWERS FROM THE TEACHINGS OF THE SEVENTH-CENTURY SAINT ALI BIN ABU TALIB. EXCERPTS FROM PEAK OF ELOQUENCE (NAHJUL BALAGHA)

An English-language collection of the sayings and lessons of an important Muslim teacher.

Ali bin Abu Talib was the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and the first male convert to Islam. In this book, Akhtar organizes Ali’s writings and teaching into subjects ranging from God, the world, the afterlife, justice and politics, among others. Given the scattered nature of Ali’s writings, this book may certainly serve as a handy sourcebook for those looking to his words for comfort and guidance. However, it is unclear who the intended audience is—it seems that Akhtar wants to introduce the well-known teacher to those unfamiliar with him, in which case such a reader would be better served by more encompassing context of Ali, his time period and his role in Islamic theology to supplement the existing short chapter introductions and numerous appendices with brief information about Ali’s life, sources and various references. There are lists of Ali’s quotes for ready reference, as well as the sayings of well-known figures about Ali, helping even the most unfamiliar reader at least piece together his importance. The wisdom offered in the book is valuable and inspiring, and Akhtar has obviously taken care to cultivate the sections and, according to the acknowledgements, consult with experts in the field. On the other hand, he seems to have paraphrased his book from an existing English translation, further muddying the book’s ultimate purpose and audience and calling into question the fidelity of his translation. Nevertheless, the content of the book—the theology and spirit of Ali—shines through in a clear, sincere way that is sure to inspire the reader even if it lends nothing new to their understanding. A helpful reference for those familiar with the topic; a compelling but confusing jumping-off point for those who wish to know more.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461014539

Page Count: 254

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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