Susan Jacoby: A Voice of Reason
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR NEVER SAY DIE : REVIEWS AND QUOTES
""Warning: This book is heretical. Susan Jacoby, one of our most perceptive public intellectuals, examines the current myth that it is possible to transcend the vicissitudes of old age by living right. In this fascinating look at the `new old age,' she shows that it is pretty much like the old one--marked by declining health, loss of independence, and often dementia. It is no service to older Americans to demand that they conform, or pretend to conform, to current notions of a serene, wisdom-packed, if passionless, old age. We need to deal with old age as it is, not as we would like it to be."
--Marcia Angell, MD, editor emerita of The New England Journal of Medicine and Senior Lecturer in Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
"Susan Jacoby, a sworn enemy of irrationality in every form, has some shockingly bad news: We will all die, and most of us will get old first--not `older' but actually old. In this beautifully crafted book, she punctures the promises that aging will eventually be `cured' either by a wonder drug or through positive thinking. The good news is that if we wake up from our delusions, we may be better able to grow old with dignity."
--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
"Susan Jacoby confronts the unhappiest of truths: many of us will live too long--both for our own good and the good of others. This is the darkness that looms over us at the intersection of medical ethics, social justice, economics, and our midnight fears. Never Say Die is a beautifully written, clear-eyed and deeply compassionate book.
--Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.
REVIEWS OF THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON
"There are few subjects more timely than the one tackled by Susan Jacoby in The Age of American Unreason, in which she asserts that “American is now ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism.” For more than a decade there have been growing symptoms of this affliction, from fundamentalist assaults on the teaching of evolution to the Bush administration's willful disavowal of expert opinion on global warming . . . Conservatives have turned the term “intellectual,” like the term “liberal” into a dirty word in politics (even though neo-conservative intellectuals played a formative role in making the case for war against Iraq); policy positions tend to get less attention than personality and tactics in the current presidential campaign; and the democratizing influence of the Internet is working to banish expertise altogether, making everyone on authority on everything.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Identifying herself as a “cultural conservationist” (but by no means a cultural conservative), Jacoby laments the decline of middlebrow Amerian culture and presents a cogent defense of intellectualism. America , she believes, faces “a crisis of memory and knowledge,” in which anti-intellectualism is not only tolerated but celebrated by those in politics and the media to whom we are all “jusk folks.”
—The New Yorker
In The Age of American Unreason, Jacoby joins the grand tradition of authors such as Neil Postman and Sven Birkets, angrily eloquent cultural critics who refused to swallow the notion that “visual literacy”—film, TV, video games—is the intellectual equivalent of reading a classic novel. Jacoby's contribution is to figure out where the train jumped the track, to trace how the progressive Enlightenment values of rationality, devotion to the scientific method and tolerance and freedom of thought unraveled into today's sorry charade of an empty-headed, circus-like media, declining rates of literacy and infiltration of public policy by religious zealots.
—Julia Keller, The Chicago Tribune
Don't let Ms. Jacoby's scorn for the electronic media distract you from the very serious implications bubbling under the surface of her deceptively radical book. At its most nuanced, The Age of American Unreason asks whether the increasing sophistication of intellectual endeavor comes at too high a price: growing isolation from everyday life and a metastasis of popular unreason—including, paradoxically, an unthinking faith in credentialed “experts.”
“To a country of underachievers and proud of it, this book delivers a magnificent, occasionally hilarious kick in the pants. Snap out of it, Jacoby says. Getting it right matters. Tough talk and wicked wit in the tradition of Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death.”
—Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography
“This feerless jeremiad, at once passionate, witty, and solidly grounded in facts, arrives at a propitious moment, when many Americans are perceiving that ignorance conjoined to arrogance can be deadly. This book deserves to be widely read, and especially by concerned parents. As Jacoby insists, it is only within families that some immunity to mind-numbing infotainment can be acquired. First, however, there must be a will to resist—and if this stirring book can’t rally it, nothing can.
—Frederick Crews, author of The Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR ALGER HISS AND THE BATTLE FOR HISTORY
There is a lifetime of erudition—about American society, the Soviet Union, and the way people bend their perceptions to fit their beliefs—in this wise and careful look an an episode that for decades has inspired heated diatribes. Jacoby points out that those of use who don't believe in Hiss's innocence should still care about the issues of civil liberties that the case raised—and which are still highly relevant today.”
—Adam Hochschild, author of Stalin's Ghost and Bury the Chains
Jacoby offers a sprightly and thoughtful overview of the Hiss case, and considers its impact on several generations of liberal and conservative intellectuals. Her nuanced conclusions may not win the approval of either pro- or anti-Hiss partisans, but should prove all the more useful to the general reader.
—Maurcie Isserman, professor of history, Hamilton College and author of If I Had A Hammer: The Death of the Old Left
This book is a jewel of historical understanding. With wit and psychological insight, Susan Jacoby untangles sixty years of knotted quarrels about the Alger Hiss case to calmly explain what all the fuss was about and why so many people still care.
—Michael Kazin, professor of history, Georgetown University , and author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History.
Fascinating, accessible, and persuasive, Susan Jacoby makes it clear why the Hiss case and the diverse responses to and uses of it matter. She will upset, if not outrage, people on both sides of the political spectrum.
—Harvey J. Kaye, author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America
REVIEWS OF FREETHINKERS
In the best of all possible Americas every college freshman would be required to take a course called “The History of American Secularism.” The text would be Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers, as necessary a book as could be published in the fourth year of the ministry of George W. Bush.
Freethinkers is a gutsy, passionate, intelligent book...a must read for those interested in the ways our nation’s most cherished traditions of freedom evolved.
—The Boston Globe, July 4, 2004
The great virtue of Susan Jacoby’s book is that it succeeds so well in...showing that secularism, agnosticism, and atheism are as American as cherry pie...In lucid and witty prose, Jacoby has uncovered the hidden history of secular America.
—Christopher Hitchens, Washington Post Book World
This book is fresh air for the lungs of those who defend the separation of church and state. Here, clearly written and without apologetics, is the noble record of the long struggle to retain America’s precious freedom of conscience, her pride for two centuries, now under threat from the political right as never before.
Ardent and insightful, Ms. Jacoby seeks to rescue a proud tradition from the indifference of posterity...“Freethinker” is what rebels against spiritual authority once called themselves, and it ennobles the breed with, if she'll excuse the term, the holiest adjective in American politics...Ms. Jacoby is no polemicist. She appreciates the pull of religion—as community and creed—while criticizing her own side for taking refuge in rational disdain. Beliefs, she knows, cannot promote themselves: “Values are handed down more easily and thoroughly by permanent institutions than by marginalized radicals,” she writes. To change minds, “secular humanists must reclaim the language of passion and emotion from the religiously correct.”
—Michael Kazin, The New York Times, 3/31/04
Jacoby's antidote for...religious triumphalism is a detailed counter-history celebrating the accomplishments of the nation's longstanding secular tradition and recalling the individual courage and contributions of that tradition's leading lights...while the culture war will no doubt rage on over issues such as abortion, gay rights, and government subsidy of parochial schools, it is unlikely ever to vanquish the secularist hope—so vital to our history—that American remains what Jacoby quite poetically describes as a “nation founded not on dreams of justice in heaven but on the best human hopes for a more just earth.”
—Edward Lazarus, The Los Angeles Times, 4/11/04
In her brave book Freethinkers, Susan Jacoby lays out the history of the often lonely battle to protect religion from government, and vice versa.”
—Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, 11/02/04
Freethinkers persuasively documents the moral and political importance of the secular tradition to a free people. It arrives at an especially opportune time for humanists and the religious alike. There is no more important book on the subject.
—Norman Dorsen, president, American Civil Liberties Union (1976–1991)