Books

‘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.

Sobering Lessons Of The Long Lebanon War

05/31/2016 - 16:19
Special To The Jewish Week

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from “Pumpkin Flowers,” journalist and author Matti Friedman’s just-published memoir about his and his contemporaries’ experiences in the IDF in southern Lebanon, a buffer zone protecting the Israeli north, in the late 1990s. “The Pumpkin” was the name given the outpost where Friedman served. The war began with an IDF invasion in 1982 and Israeli forces remained in Lebanon until 2000, enduring terror attacks until the army decided to leave, blowing up its outposts as it left — a sad end to a long and unresolved war.

“The old utopian optimism,” Friedman writes, “was laid to rest” after the Lebanon war.

Fathers Still Know Best

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg offers his own take on the wisdom (more relevant today than ever?) found in Pirkei Avot.

05/10/2016 - 15:09
Special To The Jewish Week

‘Sage Advice” (Maggid Books) serves as the more than apt title for Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg’s new translation and commentary on Pirkei Avot, the classic volume of rabbinic literature that is itself a compendium of pithily stated reflections, observations and teachings drawn from the sayings of the rabbis (aka sages) who lived in the era of the composition of the Mishnah, around the third century CE.

The perennially popular text itself appears in most Jewish prayer books, and many scholars and rabbis have published their commentaries before.

“It’s like a box of candies,” Rabbi Greenberg says about Pirkei Avot.

New Chapters On The Shoah

Holocaust autobiographies keeping aging survivors’ memories alive.

04/28/2016 - 10:47
Staff Writer

As the generation of Holocaust survivors — and to some degree, their children — dwindles, the number of books of their reminiscences continues to grow, as many aging men and women try to preserve their memories before they pass on. Such books, primarily journals and autobiographies, have included in recent years many works of fiction, many of them intended for young readers.

Some of the newest entries in the group of first-person Holocaust books.

Magical Realism In A Polish Village

The Shoah-haunted stories of Helen Maryles Shankman.

04/19/2016 - 13:28
Culture Editor

“I started thinking of my mother’s story plus a golem,” Shankman says, “my mother’s story plus a talking dog.” Janet Joyner Photography

What’s Wrong, And Right, With Religion

Rabbi Donniel Hartman on the necessity of seeing the ‘Other’ as having a moral voice.

03/15/2016 - 16:12
Special To The Jewish Week

There is a bookshelf in my study that I have nicknamed “Amsterdam.”

On that shelf, you can find the following books: “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” by the late Christopher Hitchens; “The God Delusion,” by Richard Dawkins; “Letter To a Christian Nation,” by Sam Harris; and “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,” by Daniel Dennett.

Rabbi Donniel Hartman’s book faults religious followers who put God second to their own interpretations of religious priorities.

Letters As A Lifeline

A book and an exhibit tell stories of family and identity, all in longhand.

02/09/2016 - 11:36
Culture Editor

Letters are delicate inheritances, especially the ones that are addressed to someone else.

To read them is to eavesdrop; to share them is, at best, an opportunity to provide historical testimony, but, potentially, a betrayal of privacy.

Ian Buruma, turned thousands of letters written by his grandparents into a study of assimilated Jewish life in Germany & England

The ‘Stuff’ Of Memoir

Judy Batalion’s book moves between order and disorder.

01/12/2016 - 12:09
Culture Editor

Judy Batalion’s mother had been an artist, a published poet who followed Leonard Cohen around Greece. When readers encounter her in her daughter’s fine memoir “White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood and the Mess In Between” (New American Library), she appears to be a shadow of that earlier self, surrounded in her Montreal home by piles of unreturned library books, thousands of videocassettes, stale danish and towers of rotting cans of tuna: Every surface is piled high with stuff, all precariously close to an avalanche.

It took years for Batalion to connect her mother’s and grandmother’s hoarding back to their experience of the Holocaust.
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