Commentary Magazine

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The Wisdom of Israel, edited by Lewis Browne

- Abstract

Authors and the public love anthologies, and the market is flooded with them year in and year out. To put a lively variety of things together is easy and diverting, and it tempts one’s spirit of adventure. It’s pleasant and one can be rather irresponsible: you skim about in a wealth of material, and you lift out whatever tickles your fancy. You saunter around as if in an antique shop, picking up this and that and putting it back, and often you even acquire something to take home.

But it is not so easy either to read or to compile an anthology with a definite point and purpose: here consistent thinking is required of both editor and reader. The anthology at hand has a point of view and a purpose. It tries to follow a line; and the many beautiful things in it are not there simply by accident. In places the book is even excellent, and therefore one has to take it seriously and be cruel.

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