Ira Fistell is a familiar and even beloved figure in the Los Angeles radio market, where he long served as an exceptionally amiable, thoughtful and well-informed talk-show host on subjects ranging from politics and religion to vintage trains and Mississippi steamboats. Along with Dennis Prager, he was a host of "Religion on the Line," a Sunday evening colloquy that brought clergy of various faiths together and proved that theological shoptalk could be compelling to a general audience.
Around our house, Irvin D. Yalom is a familiar name, and for more than one reason.
"Writers don't die of typhus," goes one of my favorite quotations from the work of Isaac Bashevis Singer. "They die of typos."
Contemporary Bible scholars tend to look at religion as the object of study rather than the source of inspiration, or so we might conclude from their writings. But something quite different can happen when they are confronted with the kind of life experiences for which religion has always served as a balm.
Starting with its beguiling title, “Journal of a UFO Investigator” by David Halperin (Viking, $25.95) is an enchantment from beginning to end, a coming-of-age story that is also a kind of whodunit and, above all, an eerie adventure tale set in the subculture of flying saucers and space creatures.
I first encountered the work of Erika Dreifus at her literary blog, “My Machberet,” which I quickly bookmarked as a must-read site (erikadreifus.com), and I was so impressed by her acuity, discernment and style that I invited her to contribute book reviews to The Jewish Journal. Now I have the opportunity to call attention to her debut work of fiction, “Quiet Americans” (Last Light Studio, $13.95), a deeply affecting collection of short stories that displays all of the qualities that I admire in her literary journalism.
If there is a Palestinian Arab who deserves to feel aggrieved, surely it is Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. Three of his daughters and a niece were killed by a shell fired by the Israel Defense Forces during the fighting in Gaza in 2009. Yet Dr. Abuelaish has refused to resort to recrimination and struggles instead to make sense of these tragic deaths.
Adolf Hitler may have been bloody in tooth and claw, but he was enough of an aesthete to understand that Paris was the center of gravity for European culture. On the only visit he made to the city during World War II, he went sight-seeing like any other tourist, then or now. Still, the open-mindedness that made Paris so appealing to artists, writers and intellectuals from around the world inspired only contempt in the Fuehrer.