Eric Herschthal

Last Act

Staff Writer
11/10/2009
It is understandable that many Philip Roth admirers have been disappointed by his recent novels. Hanging over them all is Roth’s morbid fixation on death, and not even graceful deaths, but ones of an utterly savage, genuinely tragic kind. Here is the exuberant writer who gave us “Portnoy’s Complaint,” (1969) about a postwar adolescent brimming with libidinous energy, now coming up with “Indignation,” (2008) where a studious, straight-A student dies before having barely been laid.

East of Auschwitz

In shifting the focus to the millions who died at the hands of mobile firing squads Yale historian Timothy Snyder puts the Holocaust in a broader context.

12/23/2009
Staff Writer

Every few years a poll comes out showing how little the general public knows about the Holocaust: in 2005, a poll found that only 40 percent of Canadians could correctly identify the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, while one in six thought the number was less than a million. A BBC poll that year revealed that half of Britons had never even heard of Auschwitz.

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Jewish Studies Sans Religion?

11/18/2009
Staff Writer

The latest skirmish in the halls of Jewish academia has, surprisingly, nothing to do with Israel. But the new discord over academic grants made by the Posen Foundation concerns a charged topic just the same — the growing trend of teaching about Jewish culture through an exclusively secular lens.

NYU Jewish studies chair Lawrence Schiffman: Not taking Posen money

No Country For Old (Or Young) Rabbis

Three suburban spiritual leaders strike out on big questions in new Coen Brothers satire.

09/30/2009
Staff Writer

Michael Stuhlberg as the Job-like Larry Gopnik in “A Serious Man.”At the center of Joel and Ethan Coen’s new film, “A Serious Man,” which opens on Friday, is a very weighty matter. A Jewish physics professor, Larry Gopnik, faces a string of woes — his wife leaves him for a colleague; he accidentally kills that colleague in a car crash; his brother shows up, homeless, looking for a place to stay; and so on. Why him? To answer the question, the Coen’s send Larry to three rabbis, each one promising the answer to his eternal question.

That quest for enlightenment is a bit what it’s like interviewing the Coens. A brigade of publicists courts you weeks in advance, each new e-mail enticing you for the next: the first one promises you the interview;
the second that the interview will be in person. In subsequent e-mails you learn the day, time, place, and finally receive one last note: arrive early, you have only 15 minutes.

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