My rabbi recommended this book to me with the caveat that while he respected Hazony as a scholar, "I really hate this guy." Hazony has developed a repMy rabbi recommended this book to me with the caveat that while he respected Hazony as a scholar, "I really hate this guy." Hazony has developed a reputation for his right-wing political views, which I cannot say that I agree with. He is, however, a reputable scholar, and along with Daniel Gordis (whose political views also at times rub me the wrong way), recently helped to found Shalem College, Israel's first attempt at an American-style liberal arts college. At any rate, this is a book analyzing religious texts, so there's nothing here to offend sensibilities--provided that you're not a biblical literalist, that is.
Hazony's central argument is that the Hebrew bible is intended to be read as a work of philosophy and can and should be interpreted as an ancient book of reason. The notion of the Bible as exclusively a work of divine revelation at odds with the philosophical reasoning championed by the Greeks is due to the fact that its interpretation has for much of the past 2,000 years been primarily focused through a Christian lens, with assumptions based on the interpretation of the New Testament retroactively applied to the Old Testament (i.e., the Hebrew Bible in reshuffled form). Hazony points out that God's role in the Bible should not discredit it as a book of ancient philosophical reasoning; most pre-Socratic philosophers such as Parmenides claimed that their insights came from the gods, yet their works are still considered part of the canon of Western philosophy today, while the Bible is largely dismissed as an irrational work of superstition. Hazony aims to change that perception with this book.
On his central aim, I don't think that he is all that successful. For a start, Hazony's definition of philosophy is not really like any other that I've read. (I'm no expert, but I shared the book with my dad, who has a PhD in philosophy, and he agreed.) Having said that, much of what he writes along the way is utterly fascinating to read. His arguments concerning the connection between the ancient Israelites' concept of ethics and their nomadic lifestyle as shepherds are particularly enlightening. He also suggests that the books of the Bible from Genesis through Kings are intended to be read as a single quasi-historical narrative and cites numerous fascinating parallels between the beginning of the narrative and its end to bear this out. Coming from a Christian background where I had only ingested the Bible in bite-sized chunks that were rarely presented in any chronological order, reading this section felt somewhat like watching someone assemble a puzzle. I had always been aware of the individual pieces but hadn't previously made some of the connections that Hazony plausibly makes.
I'd recommend this book if you are someone with background in Jewish learning who is looking for new perspectives, someone who is relatively (though not entirely) new to Jewish learning and studying the Hebrew Bible, or someone with a Christian background interested in viewing the Bible in its socio-historical context. If you enjoy the works of people like Bart Ehrman and Karen Armstrong, you might find some of Hazony's supporting points interesting, even if, like me, you come away unconvinced of his central argument....more
I've had a strong interest in Israel since my childhood. Now that I've married into a Jewish family and I have friends and family members who live inI've had a strong interest in Israel since my childhood. Now that I've married into a Jewish family and I have friends and family members who live in Israel, the issues facing Israel and its people have taken on a heightened and much more personal sense of importance to me.
I can't remember for sure how I first heard about Gershom Gorenberg. It may have been from a radio interview or it may have been from my dad (who is also a big fan of his). Since then, I've taken to reading his blog posts regularly and reading "The Accidental Empire" and now "The Unmaking of Israel." He never fails to address difficult issues with Israel and its neighbors in an engaging and refreshing manner.
This is an important work. It is the impassioned writing of a man who is stridently fighting to restore a vision of Israel that is fast disappearing, yet he also has a thorough religious education, and he understands the arguments of his ideological opponents to a degree that few other commentators do. Grounding his commentary in the Altalena Incident, Gorenberg carefully reveals layer upon layer of recent history to show how the results of that infamous event are in danger of being completely upended. While I don't necessarily agree with all of the suggestions Gorenberg lays out at the end of the book or find many of them very easy to implement, the dangers he warns of and the proposals he makes to head them off deserve to be thoroughly discussed and thoughtfully considered by anyone who cares about Israel and takes an interest in the immense societal and diplomatic challenges facing the modern Middle East....more
Jon Savage went to Cambridge, but instead of doing what Cambridge grads normally do, he started writing reviews of punk shows for "Sounds" magazine, mJon Savage went to Cambridge, but instead of doing what Cambridge grads normally do, he started writing reviews of punk shows for "Sounds" magazine, moved to Manchester where he befriended a new band called Joy Division and a scruffy young folk guitarist named Johnny Marr, and ultimately stumbled into becoming one of the finest Anglo-American pop culture commentators of the late 20th century. His book on punk, England's Dreaming, is THE definitive work on the genre and its origins.
Teenage takes things back a few steps further and explores the development of modern youth culture in Europe and America between 1875 and 1945. Well-researched and deftly written. ...more
This is a book about honey and isolation with perhaps some of the most elegant descriptive prose dedicated to both that I have ever read. It's also thThis is a book about honey and isolation with perhaps some of the most elegant descriptive prose dedicated to both that I have ever read. It's also thoroughly refreshing to read a book by a young novelist who isn't totally licking Salman Rushdie's hole......more
Anybody who thinks that Irvine Welsh is a true literary original has never read anything by Alasdair Gray. That said, he's one of those authors that,Anybody who thinks that Irvine Welsh is a true literary original has never read anything by Alasdair Gray. That said, he's one of those authors that, in general, I respect more than I actually enjoy reading. When he gets bits of text interweaving in little boxes all backwards and upside-down, it's a wee bit too conceptually rigorous for me.
He writes great short stories, though, and you'll find plenty of them in here. The one on his contemporary retelling of the story of Job is particularly good. There's also plenty of not so subtle but intelligently delivered commentary about Blair-era Britain and Gray's raging contempt for it.
The other thing I love about all of Gray's books is the blurbs in the back. Most authors only include positive raves for their work. A few might toss in a negative review just to be funny. Gray includes them all, from the most ass-kissingly hyperbolic praise of his champions in the British press to those reviewers who see him as a talentless hack deserving of an extremely painful and drawn-out death. Sometimes the reviews of his books make for more entertaining reading than the books themselves...
But this one is great. And he also draws some pretty funny pictures......more
I had the (mostly) good fortune of dating a Canadian girl* for about a year and the experience alerted me to the realization that even an educated, weI had the (mostly) good fortune of dating a Canadian girl* for about a year and the experience alerted me to the realization that even an educated, well-traveled, cultured wanker like me could labor under the misapprehension that Canadians were just Americans with health insurance, a funny accent, a weaker dollar, and French cereal boxes...Nothing could be further from the truth. (Although they DO have pretty damn funny accents). Michael Adams charts how far from being sucked into a more "Americanized" society, Canadian social attitudes are slowly but surely beginning to drift further and further away from those of their larger-than-life neighbors down south. Apparently, Montreal is the most hedonistic and idealistic city in North America...I wanna go.
*If you should ever find yourself romantically involved with a Canadian, never, ever, ever talk shit about The Tragically Hip...Even if you really do think their lead singer sounds like a goat...Just keep it to yourself, okay?...more
Ciarán Carson is a strange one. A novelist, poet, flute player and ex-chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, he was raised speaking Irish aCiarán Carson is a strange one. A novelist, poet, flute player and ex-chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, he was raised speaking Irish as his native language in Belfast in the 1950s---long before speaking Irish in Belfast was at all cool. Despite this, he shares a surname with Edward Carson, perhaps the most important figure in 20th century Loyalism. Like many people from Northern Ireland, he is a bundle of contradictions.
This is a book primarily about Irish traditional music, and anybody wondering about its appeal would do well to read it. It's also a book about slipping in and out of time, and Carson leaps from tangent to tangent, taking the reader from dark, smokey pubs in '60s Belfast to dark smokey pubs in Clare to cafes in Dublin to moonshine parties in Virginia and back. It also contains the most romantic description of black pudding ever written....more