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Customer Review

36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 99 Tales Spanning the Globe, July 29, 2008
This review is from: Masters of Discourse (Paperback)
To start with, a physical description: This is a large book, 695 pages
of large, easy-to-read type on good, thick high-quality paper. It has
wide margins along the spine, so it's comfortable to read. Since the
contents of the book are short stories, you don't have to be a scholar
to digest this tome. Each chapter is an essay that stands on its own two
feet. The stories are almost all concerned with the current state of
affairs on this little planet of ours, and every one is capable of
changing your view of the world. You think you can't be touched by a
writer? You think your views are so set in stone that no essayist might
break through and make your head spin? You have not read Israel Shamir.
It starts with a simple and honest interview where Shamir sets out his
biases for everyone to see. There are no hidden agendas here. He then
takes off on a whirlwind tour of the world, starting from his home base
Israel-Palestine where he begins to set to rights our distorted
world-views. We learn little of Israeli internal politics by listening
to CNN, Foxnews, NPR, and the rest. Shamir gives us a crash course in
the Israeli political scene, with its powerful new immigrants reshaping
the political spectrum, and the old elites trying to maintain the status
quo. He then shows how these old Israeli elites are misusing their
positions to enlist international support for their cause. We are then
treated to a series of Hopeful Journeys, where we can see positive
examples of countries beset by these pressure groups and yet resist. We
see using Shamir's eyes, how the darkness is turned to light, how the
corruption can be made clean. Corruption. That brings us to the essays
on The Left. How could something so generous, so giving, become so
fickle and incompetent? Shamir knows. He explains it all so cogently,
that you will never be confused again. In this, he is like Chomsky. Once
you are exposed to his theme, you will never see the world the same
again. But Shamir has a joy of life in his writing you will never find
in Chomsky's writing. Each essay is powerfully uplifting; even in his
darkest moments you will find a thread of joy that sparkles when you
least expect it, and leaves you feeling energized. Only when we are
thoroughly acclimatized to Shamir's paradigm does he introduce us to the
"front lines", the very vanguard of debate - where things are still
foggy, the lines not so clearly drawn. Even so, Shamir manages to step
lightly along this shifting ground, keeping his principles in view at
all times while the rest of us sometimes forget ours in the midst of the
battle. Like a confessor, he points out where we went wrong, and how to
thread our way back to our original, principled stand. Masters of
Discourse reminds me of a book of short stories I have by John Cheever.
They are poignant but not maudlin, instructive but not preachy. It is
the best series of essays I have ever read, and one theme is consistent
through all of them: Love your fellow man. This is not the sickly-sweet
love that poisons as it flatters; this love challenges us to be our
best, and not rely upon old excuses as to why the world is the way it is
today.
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Location: Glendale, AZ USA

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