Plus ça change. . . . A fine, well-constructed study.

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KENNEDY’S MIDDLE EAST AND THE MAKING OF THE US-ISRAEL ALLIANCE

A Middle Eastern nation becomes a nuclear power and refuses to admit arms inspectors, an American president threatens intervention: news from today’s headlines, now more than 40 years old.

Bass (Foreign Policy, Middle East Studies/Council on Foreign Relations) has several purposes here. First among them, he shows with admirable clarity just how keen a student and practitioner of foreign policy JFK truly was, and especially in contrast with his recent successors. As Bass writes, again with an eye to today’s news, “In the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, the American electorate knew what it came to forget in the 1990s: that it could not afford ill-preparedness in its commander-in-chief.” He goes on to examine the evolution of America’s relationship with Israel, which, he points out, has not always been friendly; when JFK took office, Israel was far closer to France, though David Ben-Gurion sought to establish closer ties with the larger power. “For Ben-Gurion,” Bass writes, “America was an aspiration, France a consolation.” Forging those closer ties while not alienating the Arab powers, foremost among them Nasser’s Egypt, and their Soviet benefactor proved to be a vexing exercise for Kennedy, especially when Israel ignored his demands that it open a secret nuclear reactor to international inspection. Still, as Bass demonstrates, JFK helped bring about a delicate balance of military strength in the region by providing Israel with defensive antiaircraft missiles as protection against Egypt’s mighty air force, though he refused to part with offensive weapons—a policy that Lyndon Johnson undid almost as soon as he took office, so that “the U.S.-Israel arms relationship was, by the late 1960s, almost unrecognizable from the trickle it had been at the start of the Kennedy administration.”

Plus ça change. . . . A fine, well-constructed study.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-19-516580-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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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