For the first half of her life, the woman born Adrienne Cecile Rich, in Baltimore, 1929, lived the life you would have expected. She was baptized and raised in the Episcopalian church; her father was a medical professor at Johns Hopkins; her mother a pianist and composer. Adrienne went to Radcliffe and wrote poetry. By 1950, the kingmaker of mid-century poets, W.H. Auden, helped her publish her first collection, “A Change of World,” which featured accomplished if rather dull formal English verse—punctual meters, rhymes, etc.
When I saw that the new issue of The New Republic had Robert Alter reviewing a new work by Nathan Englander, I instinctively thought it’d be of Englander’s new translation of the Passover Haggadah. Given that Alter is a widely admired translator of the Hebrew Bible, it was only natural for me to assume as much.
When Arthur Miller’s “Death of A Salesman” first opened on Broadway, in 1949, Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times’ chief theater critic, could not have been more enthusiastic—“masterly,” he called, “heroic” and “superb.” It is safe to say that the same adjectives can be used to describe the current Broadway revival that opened this week. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in the lead role of Willy Loman, brings renewed complexity to a classic American character who
It used to be the case that when you mentioned Jews and hip-hop, it was Jews who did the producing, and blacks who did the rapping. That’s changed. Now every rap great still living—which is to say, most—are running things: Jay-Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne are all producing giants. While Jews, on the other hand, are rapping: forget Matisyahu (but him too), there’s Drake and Mac Miller and, to my surprise, even DJ Drama.
If you have anything like a normal human heart, you have probably fallen in love with Jeremy Lin. I have yet to find any criticism of the break-out New York Knick star—or at least any that doesn’t feel merely contrarian or just plain cruel. Almost every ethnic group seems to identity with his story too, and how couldn’t they?
From a Jewish point of view, the Oscar nominees announced this week gave a lot to be excited about. There was Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar’s nomination for best foreign film, with “Footnote,” about an intellectual feud between father and son, both Talmudic scholars. There was “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel about 9/11. And there was “In Darkness,” another nomination for best
Gustav Mahler was Jewish though not religious. Yet he was superstitious. When he began composing his ninth symphony, in 1908, he refused to name it by its number. Many of his artistic heroes—Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner—died before they could finish their ninth symphonies, so Mahler thought he would out-do fate and simply call it by another name. He dubbed it “Das Lied von der Erde,” and its one of his best.
In our secular, liberal age, the Bible and the classics often get a bad rap. The Bible represents everything modernity is not—free inquiry, divested of hoary beliefs—while the classics are often snidely dismissed as the hubristic fantasies of aging, if not already dead white males.
The #1 question during Hanukkah is: What is the correct way to spell the name of this holiday? As I blogged about last year, "Since it's a Hebrew word that is transliterated into English, there are several acceptable spellings. But people still want to know if there is a consensus."
I’m sure Christopher Hitchens would have no problem with me, an admirer, taking him to task for a shoddy piece he wrote about Chanukah a few years ago in Slate. Hitchens, the eloquent atheist and polemicist, who died last week, at 62, had no problem with criticism.