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Jacob the Baker


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A sense of timelessness pervades this delicate and finely tuned book, subtitled ``Gentle Wisdom for a Complicated World.'' Jacob the baker could be plying his trade in Poland in 1900 or on the lower East Side of New York in the '80s. His steady flow of wise and humorous aphorisms designed to provide guidelines for personal conduct are also timeless, and echo the centuries-old tradition of sage counsel given by Jewish scholars. Jacob is a pious, modest, self-effacing baker who writes his pithy observations on tiny sheets of paper. By chance, one of his maxims becomes baked inside a loaf of bread and is read by a woman who finds wisdom and solace in Jacob's words. He is asked to write more, and his aphorisms (such as ``The fears we cannot climb become our walls,'' or ``Anger locks a man in his own home'' or ``Only a fool has all the answers'') beguile, comfort or confound his neighbors and enchant rapt children. Counseling a life of moderation, order and patience, Jacob becomes revered as a guide for the perplexed. Sparely written in a style intended to resemble the gospels, the book's inspirational message begins to pall under the weight of a few too many sententious precepts. There will be those, however, who will enjoy the careful balance of humor, atmosphere and instruction in this slight (128 pages) fable for our times. Major ad/promo. (Apr.)

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