Well Versed

The Post-9/11 Novel and the Jews

 There's been a glut of 9/11 books published on the eve of this year's 10th anniversary.  But all the new-ness overshadows the rich bevy of writing that's been published over the past decade since the attacks.  Literary critics have been debating what effect, if any, Sept. 11 has had on fiction in particular in recent days, but one of the best essays I've read is this one by Adam Kirsch.

Breaking News! Ex-NBA Star To Coach Jewish High School in South Florida

The traditional dynamic of black-Jewish relations in sports and entertainment is pretty straight-forward, and nothing to brag about: African Americans make the product, Jews sell it. You don't need to dig too deep into history to find relevant examples: Lyor Cohen and Rick Rubin ran the show at Def Jam, the hip-hop label juggernaut, until only recently. And David Stern still happily resides over the NBA.

Laughing at 9/11? A Jewish Perspective

New York magazine's Sept. 11 issue has arrived, and it's a real treat.   The whole issue has been turned into an encyclopedia of Sept. 11-related entries, including everything from "freedom fries" to "Abbottabad," and many of them penned by wonderful writers.  Mark Lilla's in there, as is Eliza Griswold. I haven't read them all, but one caught my eye in particular: Jim Holt's entry for "Humor."  

Sneak Preview! Amos Oz's New Book

On October 20, Amos Oz's latest book--his 14th--will get released in the United States. But it's been out for at least a month in England, and the reviews have been strong.  The word is that it's a moving, sparely written short story collection dominated by a sense of loss.

Obama Reads Israel: David Grossman's "To the End of the Land" and the Politics of a President's Reading List

This week brought news that Obama is reading David Grossman's novel "To the End of the Land" while summering on Martha's Vineyard.  It was one of the best reviewed book's last year, and that it focuses on an Israeli mother whose son is killed in yet another Arab war, is probably lost on no one. Certainly not Jews.

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.

What Do Shrinks and Ancient Israel Have in Common?

There was an interesting tidbit in The New York Times you might have missed last week: Patricia Cohen posted a small item about a research paper presented at this year's American Psychology Association convention. The researchers were from Yeshiva University and argued that the Sanhedrin--or, the judicial body that governened Jerusalem in ancient Israel--was surprisingly effective at combating "groupthink."

Philip Levine, Poet Laureate; Or "A dirty Detroit Jew with Bad Manners"

It was announced this week that Philip Levine, 83, will be the new U.S. poet laureate.  If it isn't obvious from his name, he's Jewish.  But that's no surprise with regard to poet laureates--Louise Gluck was the last Jewish honoree, in 2003, and Robert Pinksy held the distinction (i.e. laureate and Jewish) three years before that. Plus, there's Joseph Brodsky, Karl Shapiro, and many others I'm skipping.

Is Kanye West a Philo-Semite?

The easy thing to do after Kanye West's poorly chosen words this weekend--in which he likened the noxious stares he gets these days to ones people might give Hitler--is to ask for an apology.  No word yet on whether any Jewish groups are asking for one, but my bet is that it's in the offing.  But perhaps a better thing to do is to ask: are his comments a reflection of philo-semitism?  

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