Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mentsch or Shmuck? Michael Wex Tells How To Be and How Not To Be

There are people out there, millions of them, who act as if they still believe everything that their mothers told them in the first six months of their life: they're the nicest, most beautiful, most promising and intelligent bags of flesh ever to walk the earth, and anybody who can't see it is a jealous fool.

We call these people shmucks. In his new book, How to Be a Mentsh (and Not a Shmuck), published by Harper Collins, bestselling author Michael Wex (Born to Kvetch and Just Say Nu) offers a wise and witty guide to being a good human being (A mentsh) regardless of your religion or beliefs—a blueprint for living a decent and moral life, acting with self-control instead of self-denial, and winning through cooperation rather than competition.

But this is no dull manual about loving thy neighbor. It's a fast-paced and entertaining adventure in the wisdom of the ages, wherever that wisdom may be found: Yiddish proverbs, current events, Talmudic stories, movies, television, and more. Referencing pop culture and Jewish tradition with equal ease, Wex explores the strategies developed by an oppressed people to pursue happiness with their dignity—and sense of humor—intact.

You can get the flavor of the book by reading a few pages from the publisher's website.  It's a very readable combination of humor, etymology, pop culture, and Jewish history.

Here's an interview with the author on, where he talks about the art of mentshlichkeit and how to avoid being a shmuck.

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