Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review: "Bloodlust" by Russell Jacoby


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?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Film Review: Miral

Fuse Film Review: Julian Schnabel’s “Miral” — Emotion, Beauty, Power and 'Huh'

I saw "Miral" today, the Julian Schnabel film that's caused a ruckus. It's powerful and good-looking. Schnabel brings a painter's eye to the Mideast, a love of scenery and light, and fine, maturing, cinematic instincts. He also brings flaws that seem almost intrinsic to film when it brushes up against historical complexity. Later, just a bit removed from the emotions "Miral" aroused, I found myself bubbling up with reservations.

The film mutters a bit much. I mean that literally. You can barely hear what the Palestinian characters are saying as they argue about politics. These arguments, insofar as they are audible, are of import. Should Palestinians, in the late 1980s, during the first intifada, consider negotiating with Israel? Should they entertain the prospect of accepting a state of their own on the West Bank and in Gaza? Or should they go on fighting for the very abolition of the Jewish State?