Books

Still Active (Ahem!) After All These Years

‘Scary Old Sex’ author Arlene Heyman casts a clinical eye on the rewards and pitfalls of intimacy.

11/29/2016 - 12:13
Special To The Jewish Week

Over the last few months, the literary world has just spread out an erudite welcome mat for an overnight success — one that took only 50 years to arrive. “Scary Old Sex” (Bloomsbury), Arlene Heyman’s first published book, a collection of seven short stories, has been riding a wave of ecstatic reviews. It made Kirkus' list of Top 100 books of the year and was an entry in The New York Times holiday gift guide, remarkable feats, since, aside from a prize-winning story and a contest-winning novella years ago, Dr. Heyman, a 74-year-old Manhattan psychiatrist/psychoanalyst, had published practically nothing for years. But she kept writing, and these stories are notable — for their pungent, precise and often funny literary style, and also for their boldness in looking at sex, death, bodily functions and “forbidden” fantasies that betray their author’s day job.

Literary success came late for psychoanalyst Arlene Heyman. Nina Subin

Finding Timely Parallels In An Obscure Biblical Text

NEHEMIAH: STATESMAN AND SAGE By DOV S. ZAKHEIM (JERUSALEM: MAGGID BOOKS, 2106)

11/02/2016 - 10:32

The book of Nehemiah is one text in the Bible that even learned Jews do not pay much attention to. It’s a book that has an enigmatic identity. Traditionally, the book is seen in the context of  “Ezra and Nehemiah” collectively, but rarely is “Nehemiah” seen as an independent work. Moreover, the figure of Nehemiah tends to be overshadowed by Ezra, who is far better known for his role in shaping the second Jewish commonwealth in its early years. Even though I have read the book of Nehemiah on a couple of occasions as part of my academic research, it does not seem to be particularly interesting.

Picking Up The Holocaust Pieces

New books have authors searching for the past, and their place in the present.

11/01/2016 - 19:13
Culture Editor

Even as more and more books are published about the Shoah, so many stories are still untold. To mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht, we look at some recent works of fiction and nonfiction. If there’s a common theme, perhaps it’s “After” — after the camps, after the War, new generations finding their place in the wake of the Shoah. Here are authors searching, picking up the pieces.

Paul Levy’s “Finding Phil” , In “Because of Eva,” Susan Gordon examines the past of her extended family.

JTS, The Novel

Amy Gottlieb first novel delves into the world of the Seminary in the 1950s, when ‘there was magic in the air.’

09/21/2016 - 14:05
Culture Editor

Amy Gottlieb’s debut novel, “The Beautiful Possible” (Harper), is one of the most Jewish of stories, if one considers novelist Rebecca Goldstein’s definition of a Jewish book as one in which Judaism matters on the page. In a style that feels natural, Gottlieb weaves Jewish wisdom, texts and storytelling into narrative and dialogue; many sentences have the cadences of prayer.

Gottlieb’s novel is a story of a past era at JTS, when Abraham Joshua Heschel was teaching there. Courtesy of Harper

Everything Is Ambivalence In Foer's 'Here I Am'

In his new book, Jonathan Safran Foer’s fictional family seems ripped from the pages of the Pew survey on American Jewish life.

09/07/2016 - 17:34
Special To The Jewish Week

In keeping with his previous books, in his new novel, ‘Here I Am,” the talented Brooklyn-based author Jonathan Safran Foer has attempted yet another audacious experiment. 

In his new book Foer and his fictional characters confront the destruction of Israet. Courtesy of Jeff Mermelstein

The Earthquake This Time

Jonathan Safran Foer’s new novel delves into deep fault lines.

08/31/2016 - 12:31
Culture Editor

In the first paragraph of his new novel, Jonathan Safran Foer hints at what will unfold later, and goes on, in one very long sentence, to describe Isaac Bloch, a Holocaust survivor living in Washington, D.C.

“I’m wary of saying what’s authentically Jewish,” Safran Foer tells The Jewish Week. “I’m not making that kind of judgement.”

The Archivist Of French-Jewish History

Lisa Moses Leff now mining 19th-century Panama Canal scandal after award-winning ‘The Archive Thief.’

08/02/2016 - 16:49
Culture Editor

Not many books by historians seem like the stuff of feature films. Even with its extensive footnotes, Lisa Moses Leff’s “The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust” (Oxford University Press), which was just awarded the largest prize in Jewish letters, seems like a cinematic natural. At the center would be the enigmatic historian Zosa Szajkowski, who is transformed over his lifetime — from a leading scholar of French Jewish history who heroically rescues documents, to a thief of manuscripts, selling books and pages he has stolen to academic libraries.

“The book is stronger for the ambivalence” about whether Szajkowski is hero, thief or both.” Courtesy of Oxford University Press

‘Looking For A Direct Personal Encounter’

The poignant photography of Diane Arbus.

07/12/2016 - 17:58
Culture Editor

It’s coincidental that a major new biography of the artist, “Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer” by Arthur Lubow (Ecco), has just been published, and a major show including many photos neither seen nor published before, opens this week at the Met Breuer, “diane arbus: in the beginning.” The photos date back to the early years of her career, from 1956 to 1962, when she gave up fashion photography and set out to portray ordinary people and those who markedly stood out.

Arbus’ “Taxicab driver at the wheel with two passengers, N.Y.C.” from 1956 ©The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Trillin, In Black And White

The veteran author dishes about civil rights, Judaism and the art of reporting.

07/05/2016 - 13:07

Writer Calvin Trillin may be most famous today for his humorous musings on food, family, travel and love.

A young Calvin Trillin, left, interviewing John Lewis in Birmingham.  LIFE Images Collection via JTA

In Search Of The Jewish Angle On Things

Shooting photographers in their homes and studios, Penny Wolin tells a story about Jewish vision.

06/14/2016 - 17:40
Culture Editor

Penny Wolin has been described as “a street photographer who knocks on the door.” She has the openness, spontaneity and spirit of the street, along with the gift of conversation. Working on her new book, “Descendants of Light: American Photographers of Jewish Ancestry” (Crazy Woman Creek), she traversed the country to meet photographers in their homes and studios.

Ryszard Horowitz, left, on his Chelsea fire escape. Right, Elinor Carucci curling her eyelashes.
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