Well Versed

"Mein Kampf" Goes Back In Print--in Germany. Good for the Jews?

For years, German scholars and the country’s most prominent Jewish organizations have argued that Germany should allow “Mein Kampf” to be published in Germany before the copyright expires, in 2015.  It is not illegal to publish the book in Germany, but the state of Bavaria, which holds the copyright, had adamantly refused for decades, saying that the longer the book was out of print, the better.

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.

Dave Eggers' Pusillanimity: Notes for L'Affaire Gunter Grass

Dave Eggers, the literary wunderkind, almost mustered some courage.  This week he refused to go to Germany to accept the prestigious, $50,000 literary award created by Gunter Grass—the Nobel laureate who recently caused on international uproar over his poem chastising Israel for threatening global stability.  But Eggers’ seeming act of courage was more apparent than real.  Essentially, he declined the award because he didn’t wan

Can Drake Save the Bar Mitzvah?

When Drake’s new video, “HYFR,” dropped over the weekend—in which the Jewish, biracial hip-hop superstar raps at a bar mitzvah—I was thrilled. Initially.

Bob Dylan--and Ron Rosenbuam's--Problem with God

When the Ron Rosenbaum was researching his upcoming biography of Bob Dylan—to be published as part of Yale University Press’s Jewish Lives Series—he came across an obscure quote. In the mid-‘60s Dylan had written an experimental novel almost impossible to read. But being a diligent journalist, Rosenbaum muscled through the novel (“Tarantula”) and found a poem that included these lines: “hitler did not change / history. hitler WAS history.”

That was all he needed to stake a provocative new interpretation of Dylan. 

The Passover Rap Video Everyone's Talking About, and the Story Behind It

A couple of weeks ago, a Passover rap video—all in Hebrew, and with beat-boxing—went viral.  It featured two fairly typical looking American Jews dressed up as Pharaoh, Moses, and a sleuth of other biblical characters.  Then there were scenes of a Jewish girl in an Israeli-flag bikini; the two main singers playing poker in a retirement community; and then them again, rapping on a beach lined with skyscrapers. I thought, Wait, I know that place: Florida.

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.

On Adrienne Rich, R.I.P., and Radical Transformation

For the first half of her life, the woman born Adrienne Cecile Rich, in Baltimore, 1929, lived the life you would have expected.  She was baptized and raised in the Episcopalian church; her father was a medical professor at Johns Hopkins; her mother a pianist and composer.  Adrienne went to Radcliffe and wrote poetry.  By 1950, the kingmaker of mid-century poets, W.H. Auden, helped her publish her first collection, “A Change of World,” which featured accomplished if rather dull formal English verse—punctual meters, rhymes, etc.

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

On the Jewish Mount Rushmore, Would Ulysses S. Grant Make it?

Do you ever wonder what, one hundred years from now, historians will make of Obama’s record?  And how about something more specific: his record with Jews?  I do.  But reading Jenna Weissman Joselit’s review of a new book on Ulysses S.

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