Well Versed

Philip Glass Occupies Lincoln Center -- and His Own Opera, "Satyagraha"

Tonight is a big one for Philip Glass, the iconic Jewish composer who turns 75 next month.  It will be the last night of the Met staging of Glass' Gandhi opera, "Satyagraha," and Glass will also be there -- to protest it.  Glass announced on his website this week that he will be joining Occupy Wall Street's planned "Occupy Lincoln Center" protest outsi

The Ravitch Switch: Searching for Answers to the Radical Transformation of Education Critic Diane Ravitch

Ever since her fierce polemic against the school reform movement, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” which came out last year, Diane Ravitch has become a ubiquitous voice in the raging education debate.  It is not only because her writing is so cogent and ostensibly fact-driven, but also because her striking transformation—from one-time school reform champion, to sudden critic—that she has turned many heads.

The Ravitch Switch: Searching for Answers to the Radical Transformation of Education Critic Diane Ravitch

Ever since her fierce polemic against the school reform movement, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” which came out last year, Diane Ravitch has become an ubiquitous voice in the raging education debate.  It is not only because her writing is so cogent and ostensibly fact-driven, but also because her striking transformation—from one-time school reform champion, to sudden critic—that she has turned many heads.

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 Nazis and Spielberg: The Coming Storm

Nothing quite gets the public going like a Spielberg movie.  Even if you hate his movies (not that I do), it's hard to avoid the excitement they engender. Especially come Christmas.  This year, Spielberg's big holiday release, you may have heard, is "The Adventures of Tintin," an animated 3D film about the legendary children's book.  And this year, I'm predicting a minor controversy about it.

No Good Jewish Poems? Said Who?

These days, there are many good Jewish poets. But name a great Jewish poem written recently ...

See? It's not easy.  The reason seem obvious: most Jews who write poetry today are secular, and so is their work.  But fortunately, there are exceptions.

Saul Bellow's Jewish Problem: The Lost (And Recently Found) Lecture

The New York Review of Books published the second and last installment of Saul Bellow's lectures on being a Jewish writer--and, boy, is it a complicated. At root, he's gives his take on what it means to be a secular Jew in the modern world, particularly if your Jewish identity is central to you.

The Jewish Questions Meets The Shostakovich Question

My colleague George Robinson wrote an insightful piece on the upcoming "Babi Yar" symphony being performed by the New York Philharmonic this weekend.  I've never heard the symphony in full, but I look forward to hearing it this Thursday night.

The Agony and Ecstasy of Jewish Book Awards

After Howard Jacobson won Britain's premier literary award, the Man Booker Prize, last year, for his very Jewish novel, "The Finkler Question," I celebrated with a heavy heart.  On the one hand, it was thrilling to see such a thickly-themed Jewish book--and an extremely good one--win Britain's highest award, especially at a time when even liberals are getting a little anxious about how much casual anti-semitism passes in polite company these days. 

Notes from the Grave: Saul Bellow's Unpublished Jewish Lecture

“Saul Bellow: Letters” had plenty of un-read Jewish material in it when it appeared last year. But apparently it didn’t have the astounding lecture “A Jewish Writer in America,” published for the first time in the New York Review of Books this week.

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