Book Review: Bacher’s Tradition And Traditionalists

Bacher’s Tradition And Traditionalists In The Schools Of Palestine And Babylon, by Jacob Zallel Lauterbach

I can imagine few more Nathanish tasks than reviewing a book review that it itself a fragmentary review material of various aspects of the Mishnah and Talmud.  As this is a book review, it is not a long work at all, only about twelve pages or so on a small page.  Even the style of Lauterbach [1] in writing a book review is not very unlike my own, in that the book consists of a critical approach that is pretty direct about the shortcomings of the book that is being reviewed while also giving honor and credit to the author and his intention, which was cut short by his death before his work could be complete.  There is thus something poignant about this book in the fact that it is a review of a book that would have been better had the author had more time.  But he didn’t have more time.  So this book review is a poignant one, even though it is a puzzle as to why it was kept as a book reprint of its own, a mystery that is difficult to solve since Lauterbach himself and all who knew him are long deceased themselves.

This book consists of a lengthy and scholarly book review of another book.  The author comments on why the book being reviewed is lacking, comments on the lack of space that prevents a detailed discussion of the book’s contents, and frequent references to some ways in which the book could have been better and what the author was trying to accomplish with his incomplete collection.  One wonders if anyone else carried on the original author’s work to a greater level of completion.  As is often the case with a scholarly book reviewer, the author provides evidence of his own knowledge and ability to judge the scholarship of the work that is being reviewed and shows some familiarity with the archaic Hebrew involved and how it can be translated or understood, what aspects of the Hebrew texts involved were presented inaccurately, and what a more complete or better job would have been.  Not many people can write book reviews like this, and even fewer people seem to be interested in reading them, but Lauterbach demonstrates himself to be the sort of reader who can ably mix critical analysis with a gentle and appreciative tone, and that is no mean feat for a book reviewer.

Basically, this book is one that is likely to mean a lot more to me than it does for others.  As someone who reads and reviews a lot of books, some of them short reviews like this one, and others scholarly reviews like those being reviewed, this work is something that I am very familiar with.  Additionally, this book can provide some unexpected and surprising life goals in hoping that one (or more) of my reviews endures enough to be reprinted after I am gone as a characteristically amazing work in my oeuvre.  Perhaps this is a vain hope, but while most people would likely be puzzled to look at a book like this one, even if they had an interest in the book that was being reviewed (which is still in print, apparently), for me this book fills me with a certain desire to follow in the example of the author in having a book review that is able to survive as a worthwhile text for others to read in the years and decades to come.  What is more Nathanish than that?

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Book Review: Bacher’s Tradition And Traditionalists

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings and commented:
    Reblogging for future reference:

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