An earnest call to act bravely.



How to overcome fear and right wrongs.

In the first of four proposed volumes on the cardinal virtues of temperance, justice, wisdom, and courage, Holiday, author of books on egotism, Stoicism, and falsehoods spewed by the blogosphere, among many other topics, offers uplifting thoughts, examples, and anecdotes meant to motivate readers to act courageously. He wants his readers to take risks, challenge the status quo, “run toward while others run away,” and “do a thing that people say is impossible.” As in previous books, the author mines ancient Greek philosophers, statesmen, and military leaders for their thoughts on fear, cowardice, boldness, and heroism. Among myriad individuals Holiday cites as courageous are Florence Nightingale, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass, Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill, John Lewis, and Peter Thiel, whose successful attack on the gossip site Gawker is one that Holiday finds admirable. Thiel, incensed because Gawker outed him as a gay man, “found agency where others saw nothing but impossibility.” Holiday claims that fear—of what others might think of us, of the unknown consequences of our actions—is the enemy of courage. “When fear is defined,” he asserts, “it can be defeated. When downside is articulated, it can be weighed against upside.” Holiday’s tone evokes the voice of a sage, imparting pithy remarks that sometimes border on the hackneyed: “One man with courage can make a majority”; “Grace under pressure is also expressed as cool under pressure for a reason.” He exhorts readers to develop courage to care about others more than about their own needs and acknowledges that sometimes physical courage—even violence—is required in the face of injustice. He recounts a personal test of courage when he worked as a marketing director at American Apparel, whose volatile, destructive CEO should have been removed from power. Holiday’s courage failed him, he admits regretfully, when he did not stand up to his boss.

An earnest call to act bravely.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-19167-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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


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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An erudite guide to the biblical world.


Revelations from the Old Testament.

“The Bible has no rivals when it comes to the art of omission, of not saying what everyone would like to know,” observes Calasso (1941-2021), the acclaimed Italian publisher, translator, and explorer of myth, gods, and sacred ritual. In this probing inquiry into biblical mysteries, the author meditates on the complexities and contradictions of key events and figures. He examines the “enigmatic nature” of original sin in Genesis, an anomaly occurring in no other creation myth; God’s mandate of circumcision for all Jewish men; and theomorphism in the form of Adam: a man created in the image of the god who made him. Among the individuals Calasso attends to in an abundantly populated volume are Saul, the first king of Israel; the handsome shepherd David, his successor; David’s son Solomon, whose relatively peaceful reign allowed him “to look at the world and study it”; Moses, steeped in “law and vengeance,” who incited the slaughter of firstborn sons; and powerful women, including the Queen of Sheba (“very beautiful and probably a witch”), Jezebel, and the “prophetess” Miriam, Moses’ sister. Raging throughout is Yahweh, a vengeful God who demands unquestioned obedience to his commandments. “Yahweh was a god who wanted to defeat other gods,” Calasso writes. “I am a jealous God,” Yahweh proclaims, “who punishes the children for the sins of their fathers, as far as the third and fourth generations.” Conflicts seemed endless: During the reigns of Saul and David, “war was constant, war without and war within.” Terse exchanges between David and Yahweh were, above all, “military decisions.” David’s 40-year reign was “harrowing and glorious,” marked by recurring battles with the Philistines. Calasso makes palpable schisms and rivalries, persecutions and retributions, holocausts and sacrifices as tribal groups battled one another to form “a single entity”—the people of Israel.

An erudite guide to the biblical world.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60189-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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