In case you missed it, The New York Times snagged a quick but worthy Q&A with Woody Allen today, a week before his new film comes out. Allen told the Times' Dave Itzkoff that his film, titled "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" and featuring Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts and Anthony Hopkins, was his way of exploring the nature of belief.
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.
Reading this Economist review of "Budrus," a new documentary about a nascent Palestinian non-violent movement, which premiers in New York this October, reminded of Tom Friedman. I'm usually a fan of Friedman's Middle East commentary; he's one of the few voices who's spent years reporting from region and gets both Israeli and Arab viewpoints pretty much right.
Reading Adam Gopnik's superb essay on Winston Churchill in the latest New Yorker, makes you wonder what Churchill actually thought about Jews. That question seemed about settled when Martin Gilbert, Churchill's official biographer and a leading British historian, published "Churchill and The Jews: A Lifelong Friendship" in 2007.
Now that he is an established potentate of American theater, David Mamet has had no trouble saying what he really thinks. Jews may remember his 2002 essay in The Forward, where he lambasted Jews for over-sympathizing with Palestinians. They will probably remember better his 2006 book, "The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Jewish Self-Hatred and the Jews," where he took it further, arguing that liberal Jewish antagonism toward Israel was simple self-hate.
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.
I remember reading Tony Judt's much maligned essay "Israel: The Alternative" when it was first published, in 2003, and not thinking much of it. I had known Judt's work since my college days, and even interviewed him at his NYU office for a project I was then working on. But like most, I got to know him through his books and The New York Review of Books, where he published his Israel essay.
Jews have been an integral part of finance since at least the middle ages. The fact has been used against them for just as long, but Niall Ferguson's new biography, "High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg," of the once-prominent London i-banker, raises the question of whether finance can ever be pure.
It appears that Ferguson hues closer to the answer yes, it can be, as he writes of Warburg (1902-1982): "An intellectual whom fate rather than free will had made into a financier, [Warburg] was always more interested in the organisational challenge of running a firm than in the bottom line."
Curious, you might say. Most reviewers, many of them prominent economic writers, have heaped praise on Ferguson's book. And there is no doubt that, either explicit or implicit, their praise is meant to the advance a larger aim of Ferguson's: to offer a counter to today's rapacious financial mandarins.
To be sure, there are some critics who are less thrilled. Writing in the current TLS, Tom Cogdon, an economist and former advisor to England's Conservative party, argues that there's no getting around it: "Much of high finance is tacky. ... Its distinctive activities ... are riddled with conflicts of interest, and accompanied by decisions on executive remuneration, and the hiring and firing of individuals."
Many Jewish journalists, myself included, spent a good deal of this past spring discussing Peter Beinart's provocative essay on liberal Zionism. If you thought that horse died, think again: Publisher's Weekly just announced that Beinart struck a deal with Times Books to