10/7/07

Kugel Publishes a Cholent

james kugel's new book How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now is a best seller.

what is the book in question? kugel simply publishes his lecture notes, adds footnotes, and then concludes that traditional bible study and modern bible criticism are not compatible (meaning that they better not get married, i presume).

800 pages to tell us that apples are not noodles. ahh but if you mix them together and add some cinnamon and bake, then you have a kugel!

i have read the kugel appendix and the orthodox pamphlet  in this confused book by this confused author. of course that has led to a confused thread of discussion. this whole mess shows again why learning should never be equated with understanding.

the pamphlet on orthodox assimilation on campuses is quite hilarious. from it you'd think that jewish studies leads to sex at the hillel; but do it quick and stay away from kiruv and stay home altogether or just go to grad school and don't forget the year in israel and if we had more time we'd write something that makes sense.

kugel actually wrote an erudite book on how not to read the bible, i.e., instead of the parsed and nuanced understandings that centuries of intelligent minds have reached on each individual book and problems inherent in them, throw all your learning into one big kugel - okay his name should be cholent - but it is not - warm it over and serve it. or as one review says "Refreshingly undogmatic and often witty, Kugel brings an intimate knowledge of the Hebrew Bible to illuminate small points as well as large." those little beans and chick peas taste just as good as those cubes of meat.... another review: "by the end of his introductory course, readers will have met all the major biblical figures" mmm aren't they tasty and spicy too?

if you are confused you ought to be. the book does not fit into a discipline. it's idiosyncrasy in 2.2 pounds of paper. granted that after 20 years of teaching at harvard kugel has the right to engage in this, and to have a bestseller and make a living. people who buy and read it have the right to enjoy it or, more likely, to be confused and intimidated by it.

finally who could disagree with the review that says, "Geared to both the specialist and the general reader, this is an indispensable guide to a complex subject"? feint praise indeed.

3 comments:

Bryce said...

"hirhurim blog has taken kugel to task for what he claims in it. could it be that gil is just jealous that he did not get to publish this book?"

Tzvee has taken Hirhurim to task for what he writes about Kugel's book. Could it be that Tzvee is just jealous that Gil's blog is immensely more popular than Tzvee's?

(I don't have my own blog, but that doesn't mean I'm not jealous of you, Tzvee!)

I agree with bryce for change said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tzvee said...

sorry, i cannot allow commenters to insult each other.