From Here To Absurdity

The tortured (and hilarious) road to recovery of an up-and-coming comedian with a hair-raising biography.
04/16/2012 - 20:00
Staff Writer

Many of the best comedians have had deeply troubled pasts. But Moshe Kasher, a rising 32-year-old comic and author of a new memoir, “Kasher in the Rye,” takes the old adage to a new level.

Kasher in the Rye book cover.

Are You There God? It’s Us, The Jews

Can religion, especially Judaism, work if you don’t believe in the Big Guy upstairs?
04/09/2012 - 20:00
Staff Writer

The latest turn in the New Atheist debates can be summed up like this: even if you don’t believe in God, religion still has a lot to offer. Public intellectuals like Alain de Botton and James Gray in Britain, and scientists like E.O. Wilson and Jonathan Haidt in America, all of them atheists, have made a similar case in their recent books and essays.

Photo Credit: Daniel Addison

The (Piano) Keys To Her Survival

Centenarian Alice Herz-Sommer, the subject of two books, credits music with sustaining her at Terezin; other new Holocaust books also highlight women’s experiences.
04/09/2012 - 20:00
Jewish Week Book Critic

At 108, Alice Herz-Sommer is believed to be the oldest living Holocaust survivor. Born in Prague, she watched her mother being deported to Terezin in 1942, and never saw her again. A year later, she was also deported there with her husband and son. By then, Herz-Sommer was an acclaimed pianist, and continued to play in the concentration camp, giving more than a hundred concerts to fellow prisoners and to the Nazis. Her husband was killed in the camp just before liberation.

New and recently translated books depict women's experiences before and during the Holocaust.

Claude Lanzmann, Action Man

The maker of ‘Shoah’ looks at his own life, and all he did with his time.
03/26/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

To most Jewish Week readers, Claude Lanzmann is the man who directed “Shoah,” the nine-and-three-quarter-hour documentary about the murder of six million European Jews by the Nazis. Of course, if that were all he had done, Lanzmann would be worthy of admiration and study. As Franco-Jewish journalist Jean Daniel told him after one of the first screenings of the film, “This justifies a life.”

In a non-linear autobiography, Claude Lanzmann discusses a life of action and travel, celebrities and Holocaust survivors.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Passover

In the Jonathan Safran Foer-Nathan Englander ‘New American Haggadah,’ tradition and modern literary sensibilities collide.
03/12/2012 - 20:00
Staff Writer

The novelist Jonathan Safran Foer grew up with a fairly typical American Passover. His father would use the Maxwell House Haggadah, supplemented with his own pamphlet of writings, and lead the annual Foer seder. But nine years ago, sitting at his family seder in Washington, D.C., Foer thought that, literary-wise, the Haggadah could use a little work.

New Foer-Englander Haggadah.

Nathan Englander Comes Home To The Short Story

After a novel and forays into playwriting and translations, the celebrated author returns to his specialty.
02/13/2012 - 19:00
Staff Writer

When Nathan Englander sat down for a recent interview at a hummus restaurant in the East Village, he had just come from the Public Theater. He was there helping stage a theater adaptation of one of his early short stories, “The Twenty-Seventh Man,” which will premiere at the Public in November.

“I just missed stories and was ready to write them again. It’s like growing your tail back,” Englander says.

Jewish Book Council Names Sami Rohr Prize Finalists

01/26/2012 - 19:00

NEW YORK (JTA) – The Jewish Book Council announced its five finalists for the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

The $100,000 prize, presented annually since 2007, is awarded to fiction and non-fiction writers in alternating years, with this year’s focus on non-fiction.

The Audacity Of ‘Hope’

In his debut novel, Shalom Auslander takes on history and the Holocaust with his trademark darkly comic wit.
01/16/2012 - 19:00
Staff Writer

When Shalom Auslander, a lapsed Orthodox Jew, came out with his wickedly funny memoir “Foreskin’s Lament” in 2007, he was often mischaracterized as a New Atheist. It was clear he shared a similar disdain for religion with atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, but he never declared himself a non-believer. 

Auslander’s “Hope: A Tragedy,” .

The Holocaust And 9/11: Universal Truths?

The critical reception of the film version of ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ brings to mind charges leveled against some Shoah works.
01/09/2012 - 19:00
Staff Writer

Perhaps it should be no surprise that some of the same criticisms that met Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel about Sept. 11, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” published in 2005, are now being leveled against the new film adaptation. Like the book, the film has drawn strong, often biting rebukes from critics who feel it exploits some of Sept. 11’s most harrowing images—the picture of the falling man leaping to his death, in particular—and universalizes a unique tragedy.

The poster advertising the film version of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”

Masada, The Novel

Alice Hoffman channels the panoramic history of the fortress through the first-person narrative voices of four women.
12/26/2011 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Masada: the very name of the towering mountain fortress overlooking the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea conjures images at once historic, mythic, and symbolic. King Herod built it between 37 and 31 B.C.E. as a royal refuge, and decorated it with splendiferous mosaics. But it is best known as the final refuge of 960 Jewish zealots who, in 73 C.E., committed suicide en masse, rather than succumb to a massacre by besieging Roman soldiers who were part of the army that had already quashed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.

Hoffman's research for her latest novel, set at Masada during the Jewish rebellion against the Romans, went far beyond Josephus'
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