Synopses & Reviews
We call it justice—the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the incarceration of corrupt politicians or financiers like Rod Blagojevich and Bernard Madoff, and the climactic slaying of cinema-screen villains by superheroes. But could we not also call it revenge? We are told that revenge is uncivilized and immoral, an impulse that individuals and societies should actively repress and replace with the order and codes of courtroom justice. What, if anything, distinguishes punishment at the hands of the government from a victim’s individual desire for retribution? Are vengeance and justice really so very different? No, answers legal scholar and novelist Thane Rosenbaum in Payback: The Case for Revenge
—revenge is, in fact, indistinguishable from justice. Revenge, Rosenbaum argues, is not the problem. It is, in fact, a perfectly healthy emotion. Instead, the problem is the inadequacy of lawful outlets through which to express it. He mounts a case for legal systems to punish the guilty commensurate with their crimes as part of a societal moral duty to satisfy the needs of victims to feel avenged. Indeed, the legal system would better serve the public if it gave victims the sense that vengeance was being done on their behalf. Drawing on a wide range of support, from recent studies in behavioral psychology and neuroeconomics, to stories of vengeance and justice denied, to revenge practices from around the world, to the way in which revenge tales have permeated popular culture—including Hamlet
, The Godfather
, and Braveheart
—Rosenbaum demonstrates that vengeance needs to be more openly and honestly discussed and lawfully practiced.
Fiercely argued and highly engaging, Payback is a provocative and eye-opening cultural tour of revenge and its rewards—from Shakespeare to TheSopranos. It liberates revenge from its social stigma and proves that vengeance is indeed ours, a perfectly human and acceptable response to moral injury. Rosenbaum deftly persuades us to reconsider a misunderstood subject and, along the way, reinvigorates the debate on the shape of justice in the modern world.
Told with equal bursts of fractured realism and dark comedy, "Second Hand Smoke" is "an altogether gripping tale of the seemingly endless consequences of the Holocaust" (Chaim Potok).
In the seamy atmosphere of Miami Beach's Collins Avenue, Mila Katz, a streaky card shark and confidante of mobsters, lives by the wits with which she has survived the Holocaust. Second Hand Smoke
is the story of Mila's sons, Issac and Duncan, the one secretly abandoned in Poland, and the other, American-born, raised as an avenging Nazi hunter, poisoned with rage.
Told in bursts of fractured realism and dark comedy, Second Hand Smoke is a postmodern mystery of great lyrical power, deep insight, and emotional resonance.
About the Author
is a novelist, essayist, and law professor. He is the author of The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What’s Right
,as well as four novels, The Golems of Gotham
, Second Hand Smoke
,the novel-in-stories, Elijah Visible
, and the novel for young adults, The Stranger within Sarah Stein
. His articles, reviews, and essays appear frequently in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post,
and Huffington Post,
among others. He lives in New York, where he is the John Whelan Distinguished Lecturer in Law at Fordham Law School and directs the Forum on Law, Culture, and Society.
Table of Contents
1 Running away from Revenge
2 Just Deserts
3 The Emotions of Revenge
4 The Science of Mad
5 Why We Punish?
6 Other Cultures and Revenge
7 When Self-Help Is Permissible
8 Release Revenge