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Young Writers Corner

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Recently I came across an interesting review of The Wandering Who, the book by Gilad Atzmon that has reached so far and wide that it might be called The Wandering Book.

The review is by one Stanley Heller. In the interest of full disclosure I will note that I do not know Heller, never heard of him before and never read anything by him, so any perception of bias in his favor on my part is unfounded. I did google his name and found a Stanley Heller who had signed an article on the site of a non-profit organization, WESPAC, a foundation that “connects the people of Westchester with a progressive agenda for the planet and its peoples.” Very impressive. The article by this Heller, called Time to Play Hardball, talks about activism on behalf of the Palestinian solidarity movement and recommends, among other meritorious actions, wearing a kuffiyeh because Jews also wore a yellow star. I decided this couldn’t be the same person as the more serious-minded reviewer.

I have read a few reviews of the The Wandering Who before, some by highly reputable scholars, intellectuals, and human rights activists, but even though they were all enthusiastic, they were also almost pedantically factual, and none struck me as so personally and emotionally engaged as this most sincere review. In fact I would say that this very quality, in excess, is also its weakness. The review suffers from a surfeit of sincerity.

Heller starts by confessing candidly that he hates the author, refused to read the book but wished very much to refute it. So he had to leaf through it to obtain some quotes to use. I put this down to my guess that Heller is a young and inexperienced writer or else he would not give away his predetermined conclusion in the first few lines.

Luckily this is compensated by another confession: Heller shares with the reader his ambition, which boils down to showing up those prominent academics and reputable human rights advocates for the fools they are to have been “mysteriously” bamboozled into praising the book. Say what you will, but this kind of boundless self-confidence – one Stanley Heller demolishing Baroud, Boyle, Cook, Falk, Mearsheimer, Mezevinsky, Petras, Qumsieh, and others like them – has a touching quality about it. It is like a 6th grader announcing that E = mc2 is wrong and he will prove it to you. You almost want to root for the underpuppy. His total self-confidence (detractors, not I, would call it chutzpah) makes you want to read on.

The review is made up of quotes lifted from the book in the sequential order of chapters and it is a minor weakness of élan that Heller’s intended refutations are less than substantial, like “Huh?” “Ridiculous,” “Pitiful,” “What rubbish!” or “sludge.”

He also claims he made himself read the book “so you don’t have to,” an unfortunate statement because it brings to mind unwelcome suggestions of censorship and book burning. Nevertheless, even if he made it a bit clumsily, the suggestion not to read the book is not all that naïve and without purpose from Heller’s personal point of view: the readers’ familiarity with the book might invite criticism of the review from nitpickers and accuracy maniacs.

It is true that some of Heller’s renditions of Atzmon’d concepts are misinterpretations or just plain false but to be fair, these only include concepts like “Jews,” “zionism,” “anti-zionism,” “anti-anti-zionism,” “Jewish lobby,” “Israel, or “anti-semitism.” He is completely accurate on others, like “jazz.”

The review would have benefited from completely omitting any reference to Weiniger himself or to Weiniger as discussed by Atzmon. A review is not profoundly marred if you delve into topics you know nothing about if you can fake it well, but if you do not, the reader –always a fickle customer–might become suspicious and wonder “What else does he discuss in here that he  really knows nothing about?”
As he matures I am sure he will learn to avoid it.

Another minor lapse, and this makes me almost certain that my guess is right and he is indeed a very young writer, is that he does another “Weiniger gaffe” and gives his opinion that jews did not know they were jews until Hitler so informed them. It is on a par with his statement that the jews active in a human rights movement as jews are essential because they kosherize the non-jews, thus protecting them from accusations of anti-semitism. He thus trips himself and unintentionally lands in the category of “anti-zionists zionists.”

Most readers would be confused by his attempt to explain what “zionism’ is and by extension “anti-zionism” when he says Atzmon is ‘aiding’ zionism, but that is because Heller himself is confused and misses the irony of Atzmon’s “proud self-hater.”
Nevertheless I think that only trenchant and hasty critics would consider Heller’s first review bad. In fact it is a good beginning. It is made up of:

  1. misinterpreted quotes
  2. inaccurate statements (Atzmon’s classification, description and all references to Jews)
  3. arguments consisting of exclamations and interjections
  4. references to bibliography unknown to him.

If all of these were taken out, however, he would be left with a good framework to build a review on.
I am a firm believer that young writers should be encouraged and helped in their first attempts rather than excoriated for lapses and errors that are the “inherent diseases” of the childhood of a writing career.

Copyright deLiberation 2012
Ariadna Theokopoulos

17 Responses to Young Writers Corner

  1. Jonathon Blakeley June 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    I just thought I would point out … this is a review of a review of the wandering who. You crack me Up Ariadna, you are ruthless and funny, sharp and scathing and all done with such style.

    you are so paradoxical

    the readers’ familiarity with the book might invite criticism of the review from nitpickers and accuracy maniacs

    Love it.

  2. Roy Bard June 30, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    Oh look theres a ‘Stanley Heller’ who signed an ineffectual ineffectual petition against Atzmon.

    He’s listed as:

    “Stanley Heller, “The Struggle” Video News, moderator “Jews Who Speak Out”

    I wonder if they are perchance related?

  3. Ariadna Theokopoulos June 30, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    “Jews Who Speak Out” …. Wow!

    Finally! I hope these are just the first of many more courageous jews who will brave the vast anti-semitic censorship of the Western media that keeps them gagged.
    I hope this Heller is indeed the same boy. Not to boast but I saw something in him. So young and so audacious.

    The link you provided took me to a site that calls itself
    AN INSURGENT BLOG INTHE STRUGGLE AGAINST FASCISM, dedicated to “the revolutionary struggle – and in particular the radical antifascist movements.” Timely and much needed.

    • Gilad Atzmon July 6, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      Heller now read my book,,, he should amend his title into 3rd Category Jews who speak out :)

  4. Jonathon Blakeley June 30, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    I been trying to pigeon hole your style , I thinks it a scientific sarcastic variation on “Damning with faint praise”. Complimenting rather than criticizing.
    LOL

  5. Paul Eisen June 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    Stanley Heller is an old-time ‘good Jew’, maybe an AZZ to use Gilad’s (in my view, confusing) terminology. He used to be around a lot with all the usual stuff but I haven’t heard from him for quite a while.

    Unless something turns up to the contrary, I’d ignore him

  6. who_me June 30, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    this stanley heller is another jewish libeler who appears to live in the uk. ummm….doesn’t britain have strong libel laws?

    just a hint ;)

  7. etominusipi July 3, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    great review Ariadna.

    a quick look at Stanley Heller’s blogsite confirms Paul’s view that he is an old-time ‘good jew’ – perhaps by now, one hopes, he may even be an old jew having a good time.

    quite a lot of what he writes seems ‘ok’ to my rather uncritical eye – he criticizes brutal and inhumane activities of the IDF and its Stern gang/Likudite masters. it is true that in other places he leans towards a strain of ‘…but, to be fair to Israel,…’-type apologetics which perhaps places him within the region (controversially?) identified as the AZZ pole of the great dialectic.

    this latter fact explains why he sides with the Alialbunimahian tendency wrt the wandering who?

    however we should not follow a Grunsteinian(Tonylean) methodology of excommunication and censorship of those with whom we disagree.

    profound ideas initially shock people. (Copernicus etc/ Kuhnian paradigm shifts) Gilad’s exploration in TWW has evidently played precisely that abrasively catalytic role for a certain sector of the Jewish intelligentsia.

    in general, energetic new ideas take time to be absorbed and begin to play a less emotive role in debate. meanwhile those who introduce them are often unfairly accused of subversion/iconoclasm/treason/atheism/apostasy/unamericanactivities or other thought-crimes.

    no serious thinker, whether jew, goy or half-caste, can live forever in the comfortable knowledge that he or she has damned a book without making some attempt to come to grips with its central themes. it is a matter of conscience, or cognitive dissonance. here, dersh is not a serious thinker. i would not like to condemn Heller as unserious without further consideration. there is obviously an ongoing mossad/hasbara psyop aimed against TWW. equally obviously it is doomed to ignominious failure, both because, unlike humans, ideas are not easily poisoned, bribed, seduced, blackmailed or imprisoned.

    also because (as so many have done) to condemn a work without reading it is a confession of both prejudice and intellectual dishonesty and sloppiness.

    one great weakness of latter-day zionists is their utter lack of realization that they appear to sane, humane people as ludicrous caricatures of what a human being should be. one refrains from laughteronly because they are addicted to robbery, profiteering, illegal weapons trading, murder, oppression, genocide and ethnic cleansing and other similar human foibles.

  8. happeh July 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    “Ariadna Theokopoulos”

    OK. I’ll bite. Who are you really? I mean really?

    That Greek name is kind of cute since it looks like a good natured Greek is helping out Israelis.

    That is hard to accept when most Greeks know Israeli bankers are the reason Greeks are scrounging in trash cans for food and committing suicide in public places because they have no money.

    • Ariadna Theokopoulos July 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      You are biting air. I am not speaking for anyone but myself.

    • Blake July 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

      Do you even read her stuff happeh? She is anything but pro-Israeli!

      • Ariadna Theokopoulos July 5, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

        I don’t mind, Blake. Pro-Israeli are underrepresented on this site. If I make it look more “balanced” in happeh’s eyes, what’s the harm? :-)

        • Blake July 5, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

          Lol. For me being deemed that would be the ultimate insult though. I would not be able to live with myself.

          • Ariadna Theokopoulos July 5, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

            Come on, Blake, if you couldn’t live with ourself every time someone says something stupid our longevity would be that of an efemerid.

          • Ariadna Theokopoulos July 6, 2012 at 12:10 am #

            ephemerid

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