Dave Eggers' Pusillanimity: Notes for L'Affaire Gunter Grass

Dave Eggers, the literary wunderkind, almost mustered some courage.  This week he refused to go to Germany to accept the prestigious, $50,000 literary award created by Gunter Grass—the Nobel laureate who recently caused on international uproar over his poem chastising Israel for threatening global stability.  But Eggers’ seeming act of courage was more apparent than real.  Essentially, he declined the award because he didn’t wan

Who Is ... um ... French?


The French have given the world many amazing things – existentialisme, brie, Burgundy.

The Passover Rap Video Everyone's Talking About, and the Story Behind It

A couple of weeks ago, a Passover rap video—all in Hebrew, and with beat-boxing—went viral.  It featured two fairly typical looking American Jews dressed up as Pharaoh, Moses, and a sleuth of other biblical characters.  Then there were scenes of a Jewish girl in an Israeli-flag bikini; the two main singers playing poker in a retirement community; and then them again, rapping on a beach lined with skyscrapers. I thought, Wait, I know that place: Florida.

On Adrienne Rich, R.I.P., and Radical Transformation

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.

J'Accuse! Robert Alter on Nathan Englander, a New Literary Feud

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. 

On "Death of a Salesman", Arthur Miller, and Goldman Sach's Greg Smith

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

On Being a Jewish Rapper: Musings from Drake and Co.

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.

What Jews Can Learn From Jeremy Lin

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?

The Oscars and Me: On "Pina" and Other Hopefuls

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

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