the new republic

The Religious Ecstasy of Alfred Kazin

 Fifty years ago, one of the most influential literary critics around was Alfred Kazin.  Everyone knew he was Jewish -- a famed member of the City College New York Intellectual set of the 1930s -- but few probably thought much of it.  Kazin seemed to like it that way, never distancing himself from his identity, but also only occasionally allowing his thoughts on Jewishness to seep into print.

Is Kanye West a Philo-Semite?

The easy thing to do after Kanye West's poorly chosen words this weekend--in which he likened the noxious stares he gets these days to ones people might give Hitler--is to ask for an apology.  No word yet on whether any Jewish groups are asking for one, but my bet is that it's in the offing.  But perhaps a better thing to do is to ask: are his comments a reflection of philo-semitism?  

Recommended Readings: On Libya; Arabs Against Arab Anti-Semitism; and the French, Fashion and Jews

Pardon my bloggerly desuetude, but last week I was out on vacation.  Now I'm back, and to make up for the lost time in blog-o-land, I'm posting a few longer essays you might have missed. (I did, at least.)

Should Christians Read the Bible More Like Jews?

In his usually precise and incisive way, critic Adam Kirsch tackles a thorny issue: should Christians read their Bible like Jews read theirs?  The occasion is a new book--"The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book"--by Case Western religion professor Timothy Beal, who is also the child of evangelical parents. 

Will Hitler Kill "The King's Speech"?

The New York Times today raised an interesting question about the Oscar front-runner for best picture, "The King's Speech." It wondered whether the real King George--who aggressively endorsed a policy of appeasement toward Hitler, something the film entirely ignores--might derail the film's chance for capturing the golden statuette.

China on the Couch: Jewish Thought in Asia

You don't often think about Jews in China.  Demographically, there are only about 1,500 Jews today in a country of more than one billion.  But intellectually their influence is growing.

Gone Fishin' (Plus: The Sinbad Awards!)

Dear Readers,

I'm on vacation this week, so this is the last post you'll read till I'm back on Monday, Jan. 3.  So an early happy new year!

If Christopher Hitchens Met Primo Levi, Would They Agree About God?

Yes. That's the answer given by Damon Linker in a fascinating essay at TNR.com. To play a bit of catch up first: last week, writings by (and more important, images of) Christopher Hitchens ripped through the Internet relating to his recent diagnosis of cancer.  The discovery earlier this summer forced the author to abruptly cancel the book tour of his new memoir in order to undergo treatment. 

But he emerged last week, first posting an essay about his bout with the cancer and radiation treatment at VanityFair.com; then later in a video-blog interview with The Atlantic Monthly's Jeffrey Goldberg.

Much of the media chat since then has turned to the question of whether Hitchens, an outspoken atheist, would show a little mercy and perhaps accept God.  His answer has been an emphatic "No."  And even if he did at some point in the future pray to God, it could only be taken as bestial ravings of a man who's clearly lost his mind; a man whose central feature distinguishing him from all other beasts--his intellect--had left him.

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