Bloodlust: On the Roots of Violence from Cain and Abel to the Present by Russell Jacoby. Free Press, 256 pages, $24.
The subtitle of Russell Jacoby's new book — "On the Roots of Violence from Cain and Abel to the Present" — announces an ambition at once vast and oddly delimited. Did human violence begin when Cain slew Abel, as per a Hebrew text composed no more than three thousand years ago? Does this imply that there was no violence among our kind in the hundreds of thousands of years prior to the redaction of tales that come down to us in Biblical scripture? Or does Jacoby mean to say that pre-Biblical violence is beyond the scope of his book because its root system somehow differs from that which underlies the violence he will examine?