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The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today's Politics
     

The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today's Politics

by William Safire
 

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One of America's foremost political columnists ties the Book of Job to the news of the day in a provacative exploration of how we can reshape politics by following Job's empowering example.

Overview

One of America's foremost political columnists ties the Book of Job to the news of the day in a provacative exploration of how we can reshape politics by following Job's empowering example.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the biblical Book of Job, an upright man suffers for no apparent reason and later reconciles himself with the God whose fairness he questioned. A paean to patience? Hardly, maintains Safire, who interprets Job's central lesson to be that we are morally obligated to defy unjust authority and to hold those in power accountable. The New York Times columnist celebrates Malcolm X, Andrei Sakharov and Menachem Begin as dissenters of Joban stature. With mixed success, he draws on the lessons of the biblical tale in order to critique President Bush's failure to topple Saddam Hussein, Bill Clinton's political career and the doings of Pat Buchanan, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy and others. Safire movingly portrays Abraham Lincoln as ``our most Joban president,'' one who refused to compromise his principles. His conversationally written gloss sets forth guidelines for how to pursue a ``Joban life'' by refusing to accept injustice from any quarter. An appendix reprints the Book of Job. Illustrated with William Blake engravings. Author tour. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Safire has written a stimulating book that uses the Bible's Book of Job to illustrate the relationship between authority and dissent. He finds in Job a justification for ``defiance of unjust authority.'' Even readers who do not agree with Safire's interpretation can appreciate the insights he offers into fundamental questions of political philosophy and practical politics. Because of Safire's considerable writing skills, the book can be profitably read by both general readers and scholars. Highly recommended for the religion and politics collections of both public and academic libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/92.-- Thomas H. Ferrell, Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette
Kirkus Reviews
The Book of Job as a guide to modern political dissent: on the face of it, a risky, if not goofy, enterprise that Safire (Language Maven Strikes Again, 1990, etc.) pulls off with wit and moral passion. Safire admits upfront that he "is reading into this"—the text of Job—"more than there is." Nonetheless, he argues persuasively that this story of an innocent man tormented by God is not, as tradition would have it, a paean to patience, but rather "a sustained note of defiance." As such, Job's outrage at his treatment is a "metaphor for principled resistance to authoritarian rule," and Job himself is the granddaddy of Mandela, Solzhenitsyn, Havel, and all other moral dissidents. Safire offers an unorthodox exegesis of the text (describing the peroration by God out of the whirlwind as "blustering" and "bombastic"), and notes how translators have watered down Job's words, diluting protest into acquiescence. He finds lessons in Job for believers ("don't ask God to do you a favor") and skeptics ("you will surely never find the answer by fearing to ask"). The amusement and moral intensity rise when Safire turns to 20th-century politics. Mulling over party loyalty, for instance, he praises Nixon and Kennedy as "the two Presidents who did inspire lasting loyalty among the troops," and he reveals how a diary detailing a JFK extramarital affair was destroyed out of misapplied fealty. Here and abroad (Mandela gets applause for sticking by Castro), the corridors of power echo with Job-inspired lessons. To wit (Safire loves to aphorize): "Use it or lose it"; "close counts only in horseshoes and hand grenades"—but also, on the upbeat side, "persuade yourself that no need is moreurgent than the need to know"; and, the unassailable refuge of the moral dissident, "make higher laws." To be sent immediately in plain brown wrapping to all freedom fighters—and their foes.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679748588
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/28/1993
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.93(d)

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