Books

Malamud’s Magic

Re-evaluating the great (but underappreciated) novelist as the Library of America enshrines his deeply humanistic works.

04/01/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Finally: with the publication of two handsome volumes (and a third in the works) of the novels and short stories of Bernard Malamud (1914-1986), the Library of America has at long last welcomed into its pantheon of American literary greats the Brooklyn-born author of such well-known works of fiction as “The Natural” (yup, the source for the blockbuster baseball movie starring Robert Redford), “The Fixer” (which won the Pulitzer Prize and also spawned a movie, this one starring Alan Bates), “The Assistant,” and others. 

With two new editions, Malamud belatedly takes his place among fellow, lauded 20th-century Jewish writers S. Bellow and P. Roth

Tova Mirvis’ New York Novel

A sense of place — the Upper West Side, that is — runs through ‘Visible City.’

03/18/2014
Culture Editor
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Tova Mirvis’ new novel is full of Manhattan moments — when you learn that your neighbor is your best friend’s therapist, or that you can’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation behind you about people you know. It may be a combination of coincidence and close quarters, but lives in this city seem to overlap and intersect repeatedly.

Mirvis’ new novel offers a window on New York’s “anonymous intimacy."  Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Back From Iran

The new memoir “A Sliver of Light” sheds light on the captivity, for more than two years, of three Americans.

03/14/2014
Jewish Week Correspondent
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Josh Fattal was imprisoned in Iran for 781 days on the charge of espionage. In his fascinating new memoir, “A Sliver of Light,” co-written with Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, he describes how the three friends went hiking in Kurdistan and didn’t realize they were near the Iranian border. They were told to come forward by soldiers they soon realized were Iranian. They were placed in cars, blindfolded, and imprisoned. They would soon hear screams of torture, and they were uncertain if they would live or die. Fattal, who lives in Brooklyn and is pursuing a PhD in history at New York University, spoke with Jewish Week by phone.

Josh Fattal, left, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd

Kaddish, From A Woman’s Perspective

Getting feminine voices into the discussion on mourning.

03/11/2014
Culture Editor
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In many a shiva house, books of consolation and Jewish ritual are as ubiquitous as archival photos and cellophane-wrapped platters of food. You’re likely to find Leon Wieseltier’s “Kaddish,” Rabbi Maurice Lamm’s “The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning” and perhaps Rabbi Richard Hirsh’s “The Journey of Mourning.” A new book by Michal Smart and Barbara Ashkenas, “Kaddish, Women’s Voices” (Urim) belongs on the table.

“Kaddish: Women’s Voices” was recently awarded a 2013 National Jewish Book Award in Contemporary Jewish Life.  Courtesy of Urim

When History Disrupts Dreams

The characters in Molly Antopol’s debut collection of ‘diasporic’ stories face a series of disconnects

02/25/2014
Culture Editor
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At night, Talia and her sisters liked to sneak onto the kibbutz adjacent to their land and hang out in the date palms, climbing and balancing themselves while trying to steer clear of the thorns — they understood that whatever was said there stayed there.  Everything in life seemed solvable among those trees. She also loved the walk back home in the dark, when it was impossible to distinguish between sky and hills.

Molly Antopol writes short stories that combine personal challenges with sweeping historical events. Courtesy of Norton

Wrestling With Heschel

Shai Held takes on the iconic rabbi’s theology and spirituality in new biography.

02/04/2014
Culture Editor
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When Rabbi Shai Held was a college freshman, the late Professor Isadore Twersky told his seminar class, in a moment of candor, that Maimonides had been his life companion. Rabbi Held recalls that he found the comment strange, but now, decades later, he understands. For Rabbi Held, it is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel with whom he has spent considerable time, whether reading his works, wrestling with his ideas, or teaching about him — and finding his words overwhelmingly beautiful, challenging or even infuriating.

Rabbi Shai Held says his biography of Heschel is “sympathetic and critical.”  Courtesy of Indiana University Press

'Unclean Lips:' Jews And Obscenity

New book traces role of Jews and obscenity in the pushing of societal boundaries, from Isaiah to Sarah Silverman.

01/24/2014
Jewish Week Online Columnist
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Few anti-Semitic remarks have plagued the Jewish people more than the “dirty-Jew” stereotype. “The idea of Jews as differing sexually from Christians had a long history… [I]n the ancient Mediterranean, Jews had been called an ‘obscene people,’ who were ‘prone to lust’ and ‘indisputably carnal’ by Romans,” writes Josh Lambert, academic director of the Yiddish Book Center and visiting assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His new book, Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture, illuminates the dangerous origins of this false idea, as well as teasing out salient questions about the Jewish historical role in obscenity law throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Josh Lambert

Master Of The Turnaround

In his just-published biography of Ariel Sharon, David Landau chronicles the transformation of a hawk.

01/14/2014
Culture Editor
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When Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel in 2001, David Landau was almost in mourning. He and his left-leaning friends thought of Sharon as a disaster, a warmonger. But Landau changed his mind, as he witnessed Sharon’s own transformation as a leader, ultimately breaking with his past and directing Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

New biography of the late Ariel Sharon by veteran Israel journalist David Landau, paints a  picture of the politician-warrior.

Arik Shaon: Master Of The Turnaround

In his just-released biography of Ariel Sharon, David Landau chronicles the transformation of a hawk.

01/10/2014
Culture Editor
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When Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel in 2001, David Landau was almost in mourning. He and his left-leaning friends thought of Sharon as a disaster, a warmonger. But Landau changed his mind, as he witnessed Sharon’s own transformation as a leader, ultimately breaking with his past and directing Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Arik, The life of Ariel Sharon

'The Most of Nora Ephron' Serves A Feast

01/10/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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The Most of Nora Ephron is a one-stop shop for all your Ephron needs. The work anthologizes huge portions of the author’s career, publishing selections from her life as a Newsweek feature writer, an essayist, blogger, novelist, Oscar nominee for the screenplay When Harry Met Sally, and Tony award winner for her play “Lucky Guy,” about Daily News reporter Mike McAlary’s work on the Abner Louima story.  

The new Nora Ephron anthology was published posthumously but begun before her death.
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