SAGES AND DREAMERS

HASIDIC, BIBLICAL, AND TALMUDIC PORTRAITS AND LEGENDS

Reflections by the Nobel-winning philosopher and novelist on the prophets, scribes, and rebbes who comprise the histories and myths of Jewish folklore. Most of these essays were originally given as lectures at the 92nd Street Y in New York, and even in written form they preserve the tone and tempo of extemporary speech. The style is anecdotal rather than scholarly, and Wiesel does not hesitate to bring his opinions to bear (such as on the story of Jephthah, for instance, of which he declares, "This story is...so frightening that I wish it could be erased from Scripture"). Such an approach is bound to have its drawbacks, and Wiesel's treatment of the Bible leaves much to be desired: It is to his credit that he examines it as a narrative of spiritually resonant stories rather than as a scholarly text, but he seems rather too anxious to draw particular conclusions (especially in regard to the paradox of suffering) from passages that do not necessarily support his view. HIS consideration of the Talmud is much more insightful, and his tales of the great Hasidic rebbes form the best part of the book: a fascinating mosaic of hagiography and legend. Behind all of these accounts is the tragic awareness, sometimes explicit but usually unspoken, of the catastrophe that would ultimately strike the Jews of Europe, a catastrophe that Wiesel himself witnessed and survived. His book provides clear testimony of the survival, not only of an individual soul but an entire history. Informative and moving: a rich collage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-74679-0

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1991

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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THE FOUR LOVES

The ever-popular and highly readable C.S. Lewis has "done it again." This time with a book beginning with the premise "God is Love" and analyzing the four loves man knows well, but often understands little, Affection, Friendship, Eros and Charity, exploring along the way the threads of Need-Love and Gift-Love that run through all. It is written with a deep perception of human beings and a background of excellent scholarship. Lewis proposes that all loves are a search for, perhaps a conflict with, and sometimes a denial of, love of God. "Man approaches God most nearly when he is in one sense least like God. For what can be more unlike than fullness and need, sovereignty and humility, righteousness and penitence, limitless power and a cry for help?" To relate the human activities called loves to the Love which is God, Lewis cites three graces as parts of Charity: Divine Gift-Love, a supernatural Need-love of Himself and a supernatural Need-love of one another, to which God gives a third, "He can awake in man, towards Himself a supernatural Appreciative love. This of all gifts is the most to be desired. Here, not in our natural loves, nor even in ethics, lies the true center of all human and angelic life. With this all things are possible." From a reading of this book laymen and clergy alike will reap great rewards: a deeper knowledge of an insight into human loves, and, indeed, humans, offered with beauty and humor and a soaring description of man's search for God through Love.

Pub Date: July 27, 1960

ISBN: 0156329301

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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