review

Was Vatican II All That Good For The Jews? A Berkeley Historian Takes Up the Issue

Vatican II—the Catholic Church’s commission that liberalized many Catholic practices—was a watershed for Jews, too.  The most famous Jewish-related doctrine to come out of it, “Nostra Aetate,” bluntly denounced anti-Semitism, and perhaps most significantly, said that Jews today, and throughout history, should not be held responsible for Jesus’ death.  Most often, Vatican II is celebrated by Jews as a great turning-point for Catholics, and something of a mea culpa for the Church’s problematic relationship with the Nazis.  But

Caligula and the Jews

The tales of Caligula’s reign over Rome are so rich with gore, sadism and opulence that few bother even to check if they’re true.  That blithe disregard for factual accuracy is hard not to excuse, what with stories like this: one contemporary, writing in the first century A.D., wrote that the Caligula once had the father of a man he was executing watch his son die. Then, he had the father eat with him at dinner.  Other contemporary sources tell of Caligula’s alleged madness: he is said to have talked to horses, and insist that his own be installed in the Senate.

Gertrude Stein: Why Her Fascist Politics Matter

Gertrude Stein’s collaboration with the fascist Vichy government was never a secret.  But, until now, many have simply ignored it; or, to use the critic Frederic Jameson’s phrase, given over to the “innocence of intellectuals.”  Stein’s avid support for Petain, the Nazi collaborator who headed the Vichy government, has often been written off as merely the tragic consequence of many a brilliant artists.  What mattered was her prose, not her politics.

Ohad Naharin, and the Art of Provocation

Ohad Naharin, the Israeli choreographer, is so synonymous with his home country that I often forget he did much of his formal training in the United States.  In New York, in fact, at both the School of American Ballet and Juilliard. I get a vivid reminder of that this weekend, when Juilliard’s remarkable ensemble of student dancers performed his work “Secus,” from 2005.

No More Questions: Leon Wieseltier and the New American Haggadah

If Leon Wieseltier would for once drop his surly, admonitory tone perhaps more people would listen.  For what he delivers in his scathing review of the New American Haggadah is certainly worth reading.  There are precious few people who are as learned in both Hebrew and English literature as he.  And that’s why, even if you disagree with his reading of the new Haggadah, you will undoubte

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close": Adorno's Ghost and 9/11

It’s probably impossible to count the number of film reviews that attack kitschy takes on the Holocaust like this: “an impossible movie that has no reason for being other than as another pop-culture palliative for a trauma it can’t bear to face.” 

Or like this: “This is how kitsch works. It exploits familiar images, be they puppies or babies …and tries to make us feel good, even virtuous, simply about feeling.”

The Jewish Conspiracy That Actually DID Happen...

Umberto Eco's latest novel, "The Prague Cemetery," has received tons of attention.  But few reviewers have added anything interesting in their criticism, other than the usual banal stuff (not necessarily untrue) of it being "boring" or "over-stuffed" or intellectually ambitious, but less successfully executed.  If you want something interesting, check out Neal Ascherson's take in The New York Review of Books.  He actually has plenty

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.

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