When talking about Elie Wiesel, who turns 85 on Sept. 30, it is far too easy to fall into a list of superlatives. As a child who survived Auschwitz and other concentration camps, Wiesel witnessed more death and more horrors than most human beings ever will. A onetime journalist who wrote for Hebrew- and Yiddish-language newspapers, starting in the 1950s, Wiesel has gone on to publish more books than most writers ever do, including “Night,” which has become the second-most widely read work of Holocaust literature in the world.
One of the profound changes in American popular culture that emerged during the 1960s was the willingness of famous Jews to openly embrace their Jewishness rather than hiding it behind phony names and personas.
"For far too long, Jay Neugeboren has been known as a writer’s writer and as the nurturing teacher of future writers,” Sanford Pinsker wrote in the Forward about one of Neugeboren’s earlier books. “It is high time for a wider audience.”
A writer walks into a room full of rabbis. This sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s not. In the words of Woody Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose,” “It’s the emes.”
When I first moved to California from Philadelphia in 1978, Leon Brown, editor of the Jewish Exponent, told me to look up his friend Sol Weinstein.
Protests are mounting against plans by the city of Frankfurt to honor Jewish-American scholar Judith Butler, a staunch critic of Israel.
We think we have some important stories to tell, and thus we returned to the subject of Israeli espionage. Our first effort in that field was a book in 1990 titled “Every Spy a Prince.” Twenty-two years later, we spoke with more people and got more stories — about recent events, but also new details about important operations going back to the beginnings of the Jewish state in 1948.
Hungarian Jews urged the government to take four anti-Semitic authors off the national high school curriculum.
Ambassador Yehuda Avner, who served as a diplomat, speechwriter and prime ministerial adviser in Israeli governments from the 1950s to the 1990s, will speaking this weekend at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. Avner wrote “The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership” (The Toby Press, LLC, 2010), a 700-page opus based on notes he took while serving as adviser or secretary to five prime ministers. The book, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards in 2010, is now being made into two motion pictures.
Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of the children's book "Where the Wild Things Are," has died.
American author Dave Eggers said he will not travel to Germany to accept a literary prize from the Gunter Grass Foundation.
Announcing his new book in a hucksterish email to J street members, Peter Beinart details the truths vouchsafed to him and his fellow enlightened acolytes. A brief sampler:
In his brilliant history of early modern England, “The Ends of Life,” historian Keith Thomas quotes a translator named George Petrie who wrote in 1581, “The only way to win immortality is either to do things worth the writing, or write things worth the reading.” Christopher Hitchens is, by this reckoning, twice immortal.
Christopher Hitchens, the atheist and iconoclast who discovered in adulthood that he was of Jewish descent, has died.
Israeli author Naomi Ragen lost a plagiarism suit regarding her best-selling book "Sotah."
An Israeli author was kicked off a panel discussion in Marseilles at the request of the Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish.
After their immigration to Southern California more than 30 years ago, the majority of the area’s Iranian Jewish community poured their energies into re-establishing themselves financially. Following their success, some Iranian Jews have turned their attention to promoting philanthropy in the arts, education and Israel in recent years.
American author Mitchell Gross was indicted for allegedly scamming women he met on an online Jewish dating service.
British author Ian McEwan defended his decision to accept Israel's Jerusalem Prize. Writing in the the Guardian newspaper Wednesday, McEwan admitted his concerns "about Israel and the situation of the Palestinians, which is worse than ever." However, he maintained that he would go to Jerusalem to accept the prize, Israel's highest literary honor for foreign writers.
British author Ian McEwan was chosen to receive the prestigious Jerusalem Prize. The biennial prize, which will be awarded next month in a ceremony on the opening night of the Jerusalem Book Fair, is Israel's highest literary honor for foreign writers. The award is given to an author whose works best exemplify the "freedom of the individual in society."
" . . . My mother came from Bialystock, near the Russo-Polish border, a very cosmopolitan town decimated by the Nazis. My father came from a suburb [and was] a tailor. Chicago is the biggest Polish population of any city outside of Warsaw . . . "
Eric Tomb talks with Rebecca Goldstein about her philosophical studies Betraying Spinoza: Ther Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity and Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Goedel. From public radio's KVMR-FM
Do you write from memory? Someone always asks, and I become tongue-tied and uncertain, scrambling for the words, the ways to make believable what I know will sound bizarre -- a too-complicated response where all that is required is a simple "Yes" or "No" or "Sometimes; the rest is research."
I lived in Iran for only 13 years. I remember very little -- a handful of places, a couple of dozen friends and relatives. Yet, I've spent my entire career writing about the country and its people, and I've written it all -- this is the part that's difficult to explain -- from memory.
So we return, with the inevitability of quarrels in a shul, to the question posed at the outset: what makes a Jewish writer? I promised to avoid it, but there is a Wittgensteinian way out (and by the way, was he a Jewish philosopher?) A Jewish writer is someone whom we choose to call a "Jewish" writer. Would we rather have a clear category or fecundity and individuality of expression? Uniformity of commitment or divergence? The dilemma of modern Jewish writing is the same as that which bedevils modern Judaism: Where one can be everything, how likely is it that in the end, bristling with talent and showered with opportunity, one will come to nothing?
Interview with novelist Michael Chabon.
t is true that Gunter Grass has brought much good into the world by his writings. It is also true that his late-in-life revelation calls into question or, depending on your point of view, entirely invalidates his right to the high moral ground he has for so long occupied. But in doing so, he has proven to those of us who have followed his life and career what he says he learned as a POW after the war: That no truth is ever entirely true, that what we revere today may become indefensible tomorrow, that the wisest path through life is to distrust certainty and instead to walk, in Grass' own words, "the long route, paved with doubts."
The Jewish Journal invited writers who will be featured at Sunday's Festival of Books to answer the simple, essential question that every Jewish writer is often asked: "What Jewish sources -- ideas, writings, traditions -- inspire you, and how do they show up in your work?" The following show that there is no easy answer to what defines a Jewish author, but there is no question that there's much to draw upon within the faith.
Interview with author Charlotte Mendelson about her novel "When We Were Bad".
Picks and Clicks
The U.S publishers hated the title of A.B. Yehoshua's latest book "The Mission of the Human Resources Manager." It was, they argued, better suited to a personnel manual than the work of one of Israel's most venerated authors. Ignoring Yehoshua's pleas, they christened the novel's English translation "A Woman in Jerusalem," and the book became a nominee for this year's prestigious Los Angeles Times Book Prize, to be announced at the Times' Festival of Books this weekend (see story page 36).
Picks and Clicks
Internet dating -- everyone does it, and everyone complains about it. Why? The guys think the girls lie, and the girls think the guys lie. And the truth is: everybody lies.
Bill Styron died last week at the age of 81.
The author of the "Confessions of Nat Turner" and "Sophie's Choice" was indisputably a great writer, a writer's writer. His words were carefully, painstakingly chosen and anyone who loved the English language enjoyed the pure craftsmanship of Styron.
Jewish Book Month's Table of Contents
Israel beyond the headlines, a country that has produced a world-class literature.
I got married for the first time at 50. The groom was 51. Yes, we are both Jewish. We met online.
To meet him, you might think Steven Rubin is a normal person. Tall, handsome, happily married with young children, he is personable, affable -- in short, one of the gentlest and nicest guys you could meet. But he is a man obsessed with war -- World War II to be precise.
"Absurdistan" (Random House, $24.95), Gary Shteyngart's extraordinary new novel, takes us on a no-holds-barred journey from post-communist Russia to a mythical former Soviet Union state he calls Absurdistan, with stop-offs in between to his beloved New York City. Q & A session.
One should read Israeli writers, of course -- Agnon, Amichai, A.B. Yehoshua, Aharon Appelfeld, Orly Castel-Bloom, Etgar Keret. But the more appropriate template may come from fellow Americans, writers who, by exploring the Diaspora Jew's relationship to Israel, have gone down this road before.
Phillip Roth's "Everyman," (Houghton Mifflin) is a short, and in some respects, slight work. Clocking in at around 200 pages, it recounts the life of one man through his medical history. As an organizing principle, this one's as valid as any, even if in this instance, it doesn't necessarily yield the most compelling, multidimensional portrait.
7 Days in the Arts
It is well known that some children of Holocaust survivors carry severe scars and wounds that actually manifest in peculiar psychological behavior. For two decades, I worked as a licensed family therapist, and I believe that some day soon there will be a formal psychological syndrome that would account for self-hating Jews like Norman Finkelstein. Perhaps the syndrome will even be named after him: The Finkelstein Syndrome.
"My childhood skidded to a stop on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of my 15th year, with my mother's first mammogram results," writes Hope Edelman in her moving new book, "Motherless Mothers: How Mother Loss Shapes the Parents We Become" (Harper Collins). For Edelman, her mother's illness and subsequent death from cancer two years later in 1981 were the beginning of a journey of loss, self-exploration and eventual emotional redemption that has spanned nearly a quarter-century and spawned three well-received books on the subject.
Jonathan Safran Foer, author of the best-selling novel, "Everything Is Illuminated" (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) and last year's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" (Houghton Mifflin) released a video earlier this month in which he argues that the slaughtering practices employed by modern factory farms are out of step with the spirit of the kosher laws. The film ultimately calls upon viewers to consider vegetarianism.
It is not accidental that Gershom Gorenberg limited his substantial study, "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977," to the first decade of the settler movement, for by 1977, when Menachem Begin and the right gained power for the first time in Israeli history, 80 settlements housing more than 11,000 Israelis already dotted the territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.