Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Instructions Hardcover – November 1, 2010
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
From Publishers Weekly
Only four days pass between the opening scene of boys waterboarding one another to the moment when 10-year-old Gurion Maccabee and his army attempt to take down their unfair school system, but in the dense, frenzied pages of Levin's outsized debut, those few days feel like forever. Gurion, who narrates and refers to the text as "a work of scripture," sees himself as the hero of a yet-to-be-recognized Jewish holiday that celebrates the birth of "perfect justice," and recruits an army of misfits and Torah scholars. But nothing happens quickly, and Levin is as content to tend to the screwy plot as he is to allow Gurion to go on extended digressions about Philip Roth and any number of other topics. Between the hubris it takes to expect readers to digest more than 1,000 pages about a tween who says "the likelihood that I was seemed to me to be increasing by the second" and the shoving in of e-mails, diagrams, and transcripts of television footage, the idea that this could be a great novel is overshadowed by the fact that this is a great big novel, shaggy and undisciplined, but with moments of brilliance.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Levin’s enormous first novel is narrated by a hyper, megalomaniac prodigy, a 10-year-old boy named Gurion ben-Judah Maccabee who has skipped grades and been expelled for violent behavior from three Chicago schools. He is now in the CAGE program for problem students at Aptakisic Junior High, and even more determined to incite rebellion, if not an all-out holy war. Gurion is tough, wily, ferociously fluent in Jewish theology, an avid fan of Philip Roth and Jewish humor, verbally pyrotechnic, and bizarrely charismatic. His father is a civil rights lawyer who gets trampled by enraged Jews for defending a neo-Nazi; his mother is a former Israeli soldier, a mental health professional, and black. Spurred to assemble his children’s army by anti-Semitic hate crimes and the ongoing bloodshed in the Middle East, Gurion does not deny that he could be a potential messiah. Levin’s mammoth, riotous, Talmudic, impossibly excessive yet brilliant, mesmerizing, warmhearted, and hilarious work of chutzpah takes place over four feverish days but encompasses the whole of Israel’s battle for existence and the Jewish quest for home and peace. --Donna Seaman
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
THE INSTRUCTIONS is what Gurion calls his “Scripture,” with a capital “S,”which in 1031 pages he tells the tale of four days in November, 2006 leading up to the Gurionic War and the “11/17 Miracle.”
As THE INSTRUCTIONS opens, Gurion has been placed in Aptakisic Junior High, Chicago, in their Cage, a special lockdown program for their most difficult and intransigent malcontents. Through Gurion’s verbosity, we experience the minutiae of his life over these four days: falling in love with gentile Eliza June Watermark, his best friend Benji Nakamook, hyperscoots, penny guns, the adversarial Main Hall Shovers, school counselor Call-Me-Sandy, WE DAMAGE WE, Eliyahu of Brooklyn, the game called The Electric Chair (called by others “I’m Ticking”), the Arrangement. It’s all there in THE INSTRUCTIONS.
If you’ve read Wallace’s INFINITE JEST, you have some idea what you’re in for in Levin’s novel, though I must say, THE INSTRUCTIONS is much easier going, structured as it is linearly and from a single viewpoint. Thematically it’s a bit CLOCKWORK ORANGE, LORD OF THE FLIES, and INFINITE JEST rolled into one thick stew.
In this exchange, Eliyahu is concerned, thinking the worst, when Gurion did not shown up for school one day, and it’s an example of the circuitous reasoning of Gurion’s self-appointed “scholars”:
“... and so what else could I think? I thought maybe you were dead. What else was there to think?"
That I stayed home with a cold? I said
“Maybe,’ said Eliyahu, “and I did consider the possibility, but then I began to think of how you’d told me that you wouldn’t die. I thought: If I’m to believe that Gurion won’t die, it’s the same as believing that Gurion can’t die, and if Gurion can’t die, then is it so likely he can catch a cold? It didn’t seem so likely. It didn’t seem likely at all. It seems to me that if you can catch a cold, you can die. So I thought: Maybe he was mistaken when he said he wouldn’t die -- maybe he would, in which case he could, which is to say he can, so he probably has a cold. So probably a cold, I thought, and thank God it is probably just a cold. And this was comforting for a moment, until the stress shifted, at which point I thought: If Gurion can have a cold, he can die, so it is not too outlandish to worry that he is dead. So I worried you were dead.” 
The prose is wonderful, inventive, oftentimes hilarious. Still, it is long, can be ponderous at times, and it suffers a bit from the single viewpoint for such an extended time. Mostly lighthearted, despite the subject matter, the novel changes dramatically for the final 200-or-so pages in what comes as quite a shock. Even though it’s the long-awaited climax, it seems out of place, tacked on.
It was great spending the last few months in the Cage with Gurion and his followers on the Side of Damage.
The main character is a ten-year-old boy named Gurion who narrates the story and his personality was immediately captivating. The attentive maintenance of this character through the book is what kept me up late nights reading. I was able to love him immediately, through his happiness and sadness; through his growth and stagnation--and all over the amazing short period of four days (timespan of the novel). It is a microscope of human emotion, yet--especially toward the end and looking out over "two-hill field"--the author represents a larger scope of human existence.
Another thing that the author did to make the book great was use the epitome of the writer's dogma "show versus tell" countless times throughout the novel. Page 825, for example (although this may be personal) discusses the phrase "point of no return" but that is exactly what that point represented for me in the book--the point where I simply needed to keep reading in order to find out what was going to happen next, the point of no return where I must read to the end of the book.
Or take this quote, for another example (page 29-30), that shows so much about the character with little details:
"I liked it when things went together like that. Not just timing things like the chop /flick/ knock-stopping, but space things, too. Like all the man-made products that fit into other man-made products that were not made by the same men or for the same reasons. Like how the sucking wand of my parents’ vacuum held seven D batteries stacked nub to divot, and my Artgum eraser, before I’d worn it down, sat flush in any slot of the ice -cube tray, and the ice-cube tray sat flush on the rack in the toaster oven, the oven itself between the wall and the sink-edge. I liked how the rubber stopper in the laundry-room washtub was good for corking certain Erlenmeyer flasks and that 5 mg. Ritalins could be stored in the screw-hollows on the handles of umbrellas."
This book is a great representative of the times. It is made with careful collage-construction that shows intelligence and beauty and the way destruction and "damage" will both destroy that intelligence and beauty but also let it live on. The pages of the book represent that paradox, the final and most remarkable example of the author's ability to show the reader his ideas instead of telling us about them. And in an even broader sense, it represents a goal of literature (perhaps of the author himself)--to represent a truth and word to keep speaking after the writer has died.
This is one of those books that made me feel like I had learned so much about the world. A feeling that is not unheard of when I read fiction, but this feeling is so heavy I do not want to pick up another book because I want to stay with it for a little while. In fact, it is almost like the moment described on page 980. I will not describe it here, because I do not want to extend anything too far beyond my review into these words, but it is just another great example of how the text can transcend into an emotional state.