the new york review of books

Athens and Jerusalem: The Case for Knowing the Classics

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 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.

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.

Shavuot: A Night of (Unhappy) Learning

Shavuot, which starts tonight, is all about learning.  Jews are supposed to stay up all night reading in celebration of God giving Jews the Torah.  What makes the holiday rare, though, isn't the reading part--what Jewish holiday doesn't involve that?  It's that there's no bad guys in the story.  Unlike Passover, we don't commemorate Jews escaping a pharaoh in Egypt, or, as in Hanukkah, a revolt against the Romans. No matzah, no latkes, just books and books and books.

Tony Judt, Joshua Foer, and a Jewish Memory Palaces

My colleague Sandee Brawarsky spoke with Joshua Foer this week, and did an excellent job reminding readers of memory's central place in Judaism.  Foer's in the news for his new book, "Moonwalking with Einstein," which details how he won the American memory championship. 

Stephen Greenblatt to Al Pacino's Shylock: Dead on Arrival

Despite the general approbation for this summer's Shakespeare in the Park staging of "The Merchant of Venice," the production was dealt a serious blow this week.  Stephen Greenblatt, America's leading Shakespeare scholar, wrote a scathing review of Al Pacino's performance in the New York Review of Books.

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