Anyone who laments the excesses of Christmas might consider the Puritans of colonial Massachusetts: they simply outlawed the holiday. The Puritans had their reasons, since Christmas was once an occasion for drunkenness and riot, when poor "wassailers extorted food and drink from the well-to-do. In this intriguing and innovative work of social history, Stephen Nissenbaum rediscovers Christmas's carnival origins and shows how it was transformed, during the nineteenth century, into a festival of domesticity and consumerism. Drawing on a wealth of period documents and illustrations, Nissenbaum charts the invention of our current Yuletide traditions, from St. Nicholas to the Christmas tree and, perhaps most radically, the practice of giving gifts to children. Bursting with detail, filled with subversive readings of such seasonal classics as "A Visit from St. Nicholas” and A Christmas Carol, The Battle for Christmas captures the glorious strangeness of the past even as it helps us better understand our present.
"This beautifully written memoir, which shifts smoothly from past to present as it blends memory and contemporary experience, is a story that will resonate with any sensitive Jew. [The book] intrigues and challenges, transcends the personal and becomes a universal statement." -- Hadassah Magazine "In an astonishing and moving document, Weiss... describes his 1995 return trip to the Austrian hometown from which, as a boy, he fled Nazi persecution in 1938..... [T]his soul-searching odyssey... will reward readers of all faiths." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review) "A powerful and unusually eloquent memoir of a prominent Austrian Holocaust survivor invited back to face... old ghosts and demons.... An intelligent and profound memoir." -- Kirkus Reviews David Weiss is an eminent biomedical scientist, now living in Israel. But in 1938 he was an 11-year-old boy in Austria who dramatically escaped the Nazis with his family. For some 56 years Weiss held a deep and abiding enmity for everything Austrian and German. Reluctant Return is his account of his emotional return to his hometown of Wiener Neustadt, the remarkable Christian group that brought it about, and the visit's surprising echoes and consequences.
Aside from Ruth Rendell's brilliance as a fiction writer, and her appeal to mystery lovers, her books portray a compelling, universal experience that her readers can immediately relate to, the intra-familial stresses generated by the nuclear family. Even those who experience the joys as well as pains of family life will find in Rendell the conflicts that beset all who must navigate their way through the conflicts that beset members of the closest families. Barbara Fass Leavy analyzes the multi-leveled treatment of these themes that contributes to Rendell's standing as a major contemporary novelist. Rendell, who also writes as Barbara Vine, draws on ancient Greek narratives, and on the psychological theories Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung derived from them, to portray the disturbed family relationships found throughout her work. Leavy's analysis considers what distinguishes mysteries as popular entertainment from crime fiction as literary art. The potential for rereading even when the reader remembers "whodunit" will be the basis for this distinction. Leavy also looks closely at the Oedipus and Electra complexes and how they illuminate Rendell's portrayals of the different pairings within the nuclear family (for example, mother and daughter) and considers the importance of gender differences. In addition, Leavy corrects a widespread error, that Freud formulated the Electra complex, when in fact the formulation was Jung's as he challenged Freud's emphasis on the Oedipus story as the essential paradigm for human psychological development.