Books

Mr. Bellow’s Planet

11/16/2010
Staff Writer

Fittingly, the story of how novelist Benjamin Taylor became the editor of the newly published collection of Saul Bellow’s letters begins with a letter. Not a letter between Bellow and Taylor, to be sure — they never knew each other, in fact — but a letter between Taylor and Philip Roth.

The novelist’s letters — 708 of them — reveal his complicated relationship with Jewish life.

The Shtetl, Reconsidered

A new generation of scholars is upending traditional notions of Jewish ‘memory’ and why Jews left Eastern Europe.

11/02/2010
Staff Writer

When the historian Rebecca Kobrin began researching her book “Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora,” which came out this spring, she was struck by the strange way Eastern European Jewish immigrants used words like “exile” and “diaspora.” Between 1880 and 1914, when most of America’s Jews came over from Europe, they did not speak about exile in terms of Israel, as we often do now. They used those words instead in relation to the places they actually left: Bialystok, Vilna, Warsaw, Lodz.

“Fiddler on the Roof,”

Object Lesson

In ‘Great House,’ Nicole Krauss explores the connections between memory and weighty things.

10/26/2010
Jewish Week Book Critic

A Hungarian-born antiques dealer with a fine eye for furniture helps people find pieces of their past — perhaps a chest from a living room broken up by the Nazis or a porcelain mantel clock. In his own stone house in Jerusalem,

Nicole Krauss says her plots are influenced by what's on her mind — the burden of inheritance. Joyce Ravid

Feeling David Grossman’s — And Israel’s — Pain

The personal and the political collide in profound ways in his new novel.

10/05/2010
Staff Writer

The first thing David Grossman did in a recent Jewish Week interview was apologize: “The protest ran an hour later than expected,” he said, after pushing back the planned start time. “I couldn’t leave.”

Grossman’s novel follows a single mother on a month-long trek across Israel.

Can Howard Jacobson Play In America?

The British author’s new novel, ‘The Finkler Question,’ tackles anti-Semitism across the pond, with a good dose of humor. How well it travels is open to question.

08/31/2010
Staff Writer

Book publishing has a logic all its own, though even “logic” may be too generous a term. For the wildly popular British author Howard Jacobson, it is way too generous.

Howard Jacobson, below, is sometimes called the “British Philip Roth,” though he claims Roth has lost his comic punch.

As American As … Stuffed Pike

Jane Ziegelman explores the immigrant experience and the primacy of food in ‘97 Orchard.’

08/31/2010
Jewish Week Book Critic

I remember a round coffee table, made of smooth wood and a glass top that revolved, that stood at the center of my parents’ living room for many years. In the days when I wasn’t much taller than the table, my cousins and I would run alongside it as we turned it, and then sit on the edge for a ride, much like a private merry-go-round. The glass top broke several times, but even as we got older and it became less a ride and more a place to serve food, it was my favorite piece of furniture. With yet another new glass top, it now sits in my sister’s home.

A book with ta’am: Jane Ziegelman crosses ethnic boundaries to share gastronomic memories from the Lower East Side.

‘A People That Dwells Alone’

In his new work, British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks offers a tough critique of Modern Orthodoxy.

08/17/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Asked once to distinguish between his office and that of his Israeli counterparts, British Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jacobovits responded that while he possessed “influence but no power” they possess “power but no influence.”

Future Tense

Outsider Art, From An Insider

Gary Shteyngart is still training his satiric gaze on the immigrant experience, Jewish and otherwise.

08/03/2010
Staff Writer

‘I don’t feel any need to disassociate with Jews,” said Gary Shteyngart, the phenomenally popular 38-year-old writer whose third novel, “Super Sad True Love Story,” released last week, is chock full of them.

Gary Shteyngart

Did Harper Lee Whitewash The Jewish Past?

As ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ turns 50, caught up in the backlash against Atticus Finch is the novel’s Jewish question.

07/13/2010
Staff Writer

The 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is being marked this summer, was supposed to be a celebratory event. But at least in the press, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that still sells about a million copies a year has become the subject of ruthless criticism.

To kill a Mockingbird

Clash Of Zionisms In Academia

Group of scholars pressing idea of cultural Zionism, amid pushback.

06/23/2010
Staff Writer

 From the United Nations to the capitals of Europe to the pages of the New York Review of Books, Zionism — and the Israeli policies that undergird it — have lately come under withering attack.

Israel is reeling from the international condemnation following the failed flotilla attack. And Peter Beinart’s essay in the NYRB — which attacked Jewish leaders for failing to inspire a new generation of Jews committed to Israel — urged a more liberal Zionism as a way to get young Jews back in the fold.

Noam Pianko’s new book  focuses on forgotten cultural Zionists.
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