Modiano’s Paris

Three novellas by the Nobel Prize winner, all shadowed with loss.

Culture Editor

Patrick Modiano’s newly translated novellas are mysteries of remembering and forgetting. The fictional narrators, who resemble the author, search for truth about an elusive past, always linked to the Nazi occupation of Paris. 

“Suspended Sentences,” a trilogy by Nobel Prize laureate Patrick Modiano, is now available in English.

When Basketball Was Jewish

Dolph Schayes and the NBA during a more innocent time.

Staff Writer

In the early days of professional basketball in this country, the sport was largely a city game, played by upwardly mobile athletes from working-class families — often with immigrant roots — who used their shooting and defensive skills as their ticket to a better life.

Dolph Schayes: An NBA Hall of Farmer with Bronx roots, he settled in Syracuse after starring for its basketball team.  Wikimedia

A Writer Of A Certain Age (And Temperament)

Brian Morton’s latest literary creation is a feisty New York character through and through.

Culture Editor

What distinguishes a New York novel are not just the streetscapes, but also the pull this great city has on its characters. The eponymous Florence Gordon is one of those fictional New Yorkers who believe that “a life that took place elsewhere couldn’t truly be called life.”

Novelist Brian Morton’s latest work is a kind of generational tug of war.  David Kumin

Amis Moves Needle On Holocaust Humor

New novel, set in a concentration camp, is latest in cultural trend to probe Shoah with satire.

Staff Writer

In a German concentration camp, the commandant and an officer of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the Nazis’ SS paramilitary unit, are discussing the “selection” of Jewish prisoners to live or die. “There was no selection. They were all certainties for the gas,” one Nazi tells the other.


King David As ‘Collage’

David Wolpe tackles the grace, and the contradictions, of the biblical monarch.

Culture Editor

The young David is captured in Michelangelo’s colossal marble masterpiece, in the days before his battle with Goliath. The sculptor expresses his beauty and hints of the boy’s majestic future. That’s the David a reader pictures in the opening pages of Rabbi David Wolpe’s new biography, “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press), when the High Priest Samuel visits the house of Jesse the Bethlehemite in search of a new king to replace Saul. Before meeting David, Samuel encounters his older brothers.  David is then summoned back from the fields, where he is tending the sheep, and his life is about to change.

Rabbi David Wolpe

Short Fiction, Long On Identity And Family

New collections by John J. Clayton, David Shrayer-Petrov and Judith Felsenfeld


John J. Clayton’s short stories have been awarded the O. Henry and Best American Stories prizes; “Radiance” was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. The 10 stories in “Many Seconds into the Future” (Texas Tech University Press), deal almost exclusively with Jewish men, aging, longing, aspiring, regretting, remembering and searching. These are tales of fathers and sons, of brothers, of husbands. Women have names but little color.

New biography suggests that the views of Israel’s first Ashkenazic chief rabbi were more pluralistic, and less nationalistic.

Reassessing Rav Kook

In new biography, Yehuda Mirsky argues that the founding chief rabbi of Israel’s ideas were co-opted by his son.

Culture Editor

While some books offer a good read, and others encapsulate groundbreaking scholarship, Yehudah Mirsky’s “Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution” (Yale University Press) manages to do both.

New biography suggests that Israel’s first Ashkenazic chief rabbi was more pluralistic. Courtesy of Yale University

The Dark Comedy Of Caregiving

Roz Chast’s heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny memoir of caring for her parents as the end nears.

Culture Editor

This book had me hooked with the cover. Made to look like a journal, it features a cartoon drawing of a bespeckled middle-aged daughter on one end of a fading sofa, facing her parents, who are seated with their arms crossed. In a bubble above his head, the father asks, “Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?” That question is the title of Roz Chast’s memoir of her parents’ final years, and her role as their only child.

As for advice for dealing with aging parents, Chast quips, “Did you read my book? I clearly don’t know what to do.” Bill Franzen

Immigrants All Around

Meyer Lansky, his mistress and an American journalist on assignment collide in Zachary Lazar’s new novel.

Culture Editor

Hannah Groff travels to Israel on assignment, to write about the murder of poet David Bellen. The poet had writen a book called “Kid Bethlehem,” with the biblical King David reimagined as a 20th-century gangster, and then his body was found in the village of Beit Sahour, outside of Bethlehem. As soon as Hannah arrives, she’s asked again and again, Why have you never been to Israel?

Keeper Of Her Grandfather’s Memory

Remembering Bel Kaufman, author of influential city schools novel and diplomat-at-large for the iconic Sholem Aleichem.

Culture Editor

Bel Kaufman published her first poem, a paean to spring, as a 7-year-old in Odessa. It was four lines long, signed Belochka Koifman, in a Russian children’s magazine. When she was 11, she began a drama, and wrote 60 pages describing the characters in a notebook that she carried with her when the family moved to New York later that year, and which she kept through her life. Everyone in her family wrote: her mother Lyalya published stories; her father, a physician, was a poet and translator; and her grandfather, who wrote many letters to her, was the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem.

Bel Kaufman, who died last week at 103, at her home in recent years, and with Sholem Aleichem. RECENT PHOTO CREDIT: M Dadikash
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