Of all the holidays in the Jewish calendar, Purim is the most theatrical. Throughout the ages, Jewish communities worldwide have naturally performed the story in different ways, in accordance with their own native theatrical traditions. In 18th-century Prague, since itinerant puppeteers provided much of the entertainment seen by the common people, a marionette version of “Queen Esther” was one of the hits of the day.
‘Very few people know who I am,” Salvador Dalí is reputed to have said, “And I am not one of them.” Well, count me in — at least when it comes to the question of what is a Jew.
Are Jews a national group? A religion? A race? Are Jews an “ethnicity” — whatever that means? A language group? All of the above? Some of the above?
As we near the end of the first decade of the new century, I wonder which books we’ll later look back on as best capturing our present time.
This season, several new books are fine period pieces, conjuring other eras. Non-fiction narratives depict a particular time and place through research and documentation; novels do so through invention, embellishing actual events.
It is understandable that many Philip Roth admirers have been disappointed by his recent novels. Hanging over them all is Roth’s morbid fixation on death, and not even graceful deaths, but ones of an utterly savage, genuinely tragic kind.
Here is the exuberant writer who gave us “Portnoy’s Complaint,” (1969) about a postwar adolescent brimming with libidinous energy, now coming up with “Indignation,” (2008) where a studious, straight-A student dies before having barely been laid.
With his much-hyped new book, “Eating Animals,” Jonathan Safran Foer has managed to do something that my vegetarian husband and daughter have been unable to pull off: sworn me off meat, at least all conventionally raised meat.