When Ram Oren, the Israeli author likened by much of his country to John Grisham, learned of Michael Stolowitzky’s story, he was faced with a choice: He could turn the tale into a work of fiction, like 17 of his previous 20 books, or treat it as history.
More than 50 years after Hitler’s death, there’s no consensus among the many Holocaust scholars about the nature of his evil, his motivations, his self-awareness, his hiddenness. As journalist Ron Rosenbaum points out in his new book Explaining Hitler (Random House), there are many competing visions and passionate, bitter disputes.
It’s not unusual for strangers to tell Helen Epstein that she changed their lives. They’re referring to her 1979 book, “Children of the Holocaust,” which identified and described an experience that many sons and daughters of survivors shared but few discussed in public. After 18 years, that book — her first — remains in print, still selling.
The one thing that most reviewers of E.L Doctorow’s new novel City of God (Random House) seem to agree on is that it’s an ambitious work. It’s an unusual, non-linear, non-smooth, rambling postmodern novel that takes on themes of God, science, religion, love, war, popular music, bird watching and movies; it’s also a novel about writing. Not always easy to follow, its several narrative lines and multiple speakers shift abruptly, and those readers who like their novels to have beginnings, middles and ends might find it difficult.
Judging by their covers, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld’s just published work A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice (Schocken) and his earlier “The Jewish Catalog” (Jewish Publication Society) — published almost 30 years ago — couldn’t be more different. His new book is hardcover; its jacket features a traditional papercut design in deep colors, highlighted in gold, altogether very handsome. The first book, a paperback he edited along with Richard Siegel and Sharon Strassfeld, is bright red, with a do-it-yourself look.
Imre Kertesz, a Hungarian Jew who is this year’s Nobel laureate in literature, often says that he’s a medium of the Holocaust. “Auschwitz speaks through his stories,” a friend of his, the Israeli literary critic and author Shmuel Thomas Huppert, tells The Jewish Week. “His main theme is Auschwitz. He stresses the fact that first of all he’s a writer. He didn’t become a writer because he was in Auschwitz but, by being in Auschwitz, he found his major theme.”
The advent of the Sabbath has been strikingly noted in the works of Hayim Nahman Bialik, the Israeli poet Zelda, Tillie Olsen and Philip Roth too. For many Jews, a world of memories is enfolded in the familiar aroma of roast chicken or the slow dancing flames of Sabbath candles. In her new book, “The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day” (Harmony), award-winning writer Francine Klagsbrun explores in depth the images and symbols of the seventh day to describe its complex religious, philosophical and mystical underpinnings.
As a wedding is about to begin in North London, all eyes are on the mother of the groom. Claudia Rubin is tall, beautiful, brainy and voluptuous, a celebrated rabbi who leads a large congregation. She’s not officiating at her son’s marriage, instead letting the bride’s family’s rabbi, Nicky Baum, lead the rites. But the service never begins, for the groom runs off with the woman he loves, Rabbi Baum’s wife.