The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning

The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning

5.0 3
by Peter Trachtenberg
     
 

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What does it mean to suffer? What enables some people to emerge from tragedy while others are spiritually crushed by it? Why do so many Americans think of suffering as something that happens to other people-who usually deserve it? These are some of the questions at the heart of this powerful book.
Combining reportage, personal narrative, and moral philosophy,See more details below

Overview

What does it mean to suffer? What enables some people to emerge from tragedy while others are spiritually crushed by it? Why do so many Americans think of suffering as something that happens to other people-who usually deserve it? These are some of the questions at the heart of this powerful book.
Combining reportage, personal narrative, and moral philosophy, Peter Trachtenberg tells the stories of grass-roots genocide tribunals in Rwanda and tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka, an innocent man on death row, and a family bereaved on 9/11. He examines texts from the Book of Job to the Bodhicharyavatara and the writings of Simone Weil. THE BOOK OF CALAMITIES is a provocative and sweeping look at one of the biggest paradoxes of the human condition—and the surprising strength and resilience of those who are forced to confront it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
[Starred Review]"Writing movingly about victims and survivors of natural disasters, war, genocide, domestic violence, addiction, illness, suicide and injustice, Trachtenberg deftly intermingles their stories with observations from religion, philosophy and literature....The Book of Calamities, like Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon, succeeds because it asks the right questions, calls on the experience of articulate witnesses and--through skillful narrative and trenchant observation--beguiles the reader into facing heartbreaking reality."
Cathleen Medwick
"Frank and urgent....Trachtenberg raises complex questions about justice, malice, compassion, blame, self-pity, personal responsibility, faith, and doubt....He harvests wisdom from the likes of Primo Levi, Siddhartha, and Simone Weil, from Aeschylus's Oresteia and the book of Job."
O, The Oprah Magazine
Cathleen Medwick - The Oprah Magazine O
"Frank and urgent....Trachtenberg raises complex questions about justice, malice, compassion, blame, self-pity, personal responsibility, faith, and doubt....He harvests wisdom from the likes of Primo Levi, Siddhartha, and Simone Weil, from Aeschylus's Oresteia and the book of Job."
From the Publisher
[Starred Review] "Writing movingly about victims and survivors of natural disasters, war, genocide, domestic violence, addiction, illness, suicide and injustice, Trachtenberg deftly intermingles their stories with observations from religion, philosophy and literature....The Book of Calamities, like Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon, succeeds because it asks the right questions, calls on the experience of articulate witnesses and—through skillful narrative and trenchant observation—beguiles the reader into facing heartbreaking reality."—Publishers Weekly"

Frank and urgent....Trachtenberg raises complex questions about justice, malice, compassion, blame, self-pity, personal responsibility, faith, and doubt....He harvests wisdom from the likes of Primo Levi, Siddhartha, and Simone Weil, from Aeschylus's Oresteia and the book of Job."—Cathleen Medwick, O, The Oprah Magazine

Cathleen Medwick
Frank and urgent....Trachtenberg raises complex questions about justice, malice, compassion, blame, self-pity, personal responsibility, faith, and doubt....He harvests wisdom from the likes of Primo Levi, Siddhartha, and Simone Weil, from Aeschylus's Oresteia and the book of Job.
O, The Oprah Magazine
Publishers Weekly

Trachtenberg (Seven Tattoos) wryly observes: "Everybody suffers, but Americans have the peculiar delusion that they're exempt from suffering." He shared in this denial until a friend died of cancer, and then he began to ask questions. "Most of these are unanswerable," he admits. Why me? How do I endure? What is just? What does my suffering say about me? about God? And what do I owe those who suffer? This book is "a layman's response" to unimaginable anguish, a collection of powerful stories rather than a philosophical treatise. Writing movingly about victims and survivors of natural disasters, war, genocide, domestic violence, addiction, illness, suicide and injustice, he deftly intermingles their stories with observations from religion, philosophy and literature. Not everyone will want to face this much misery, and Trachtenberg offers no easy solutions. His book, however, like Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, succeeds because it asks the right questions, calls on the experience of articulate witnesses and-through skillful narrative and trenchant observation-beguiles the reader into facing heartbreaking reality. (Aug. 27)

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Library Journal

Now-perhaps more than ever, in the years after 9/11, in a kind of instance of graveside humor-we jest about calamity with books like The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook or the Lemony Snicket series. The Book of Calamities is no jesting matter. Trachtenberg, an award-winning writer of essays and short stories and himself a recovering drug and alcohol abuser, pulls no punches in his depictions of mass murder, suicidal despair, martyrdom, disease, and the effects of natural catastrophe; he offers no easy answers. To Trachtenberg, the "true meaning" of such suffering is "not so much found as made, maybe the same way God is supposed to have made Adam, from breath and earth and spit" and that the creation of such meaning itself may ease the pain of suffering. Recommended for most collections.
—Graham Christian

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316158794
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
08/27/2008
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
810,494
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)

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