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Jewish Journal

Tag: Book Review

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  • A funny — and touching — thing happened when a writer had a son

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    2 weeks ago

    Etgar Keret is an Israeli writer with an international readership. His stories have been translated into 37 languages, and you can read them in The New Yorker and The New York Times. He’s also been a contributor to the radio program “This American Life.” But if you are not already...

  • Judd Apatow: Comedy drawn from an ‘Unfair Life’

    2 weeks ago

    Judd Apatow’s phenomenal success seems the result of a willed and desperate act of adolescent defiance against a childhood that threatened to destroy him.  Apatow was adrift in Syosset, Long Island, where his parents were always viciously fighting before they divorced when he was...

  • Torn between two loves

    By David Suissa

    3 weeks ago

    A plate of cheese and crackers served to hungry Israeli officials at the White House is one of the many images that lingered after I read Michael Oren’s riveting new book, “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide.” The book is an insider account of Oren’s tenure as the...

  • Kafka finds love and joy in his last days

    June 4, 2015 | 3:16 pm

    “We may well imagine that the glory of life lies around everyone, and always in its full richness, but obscured, down in the depths, invisible and far away,“ Franz Kafka wrote in his diary on Oct. 18 1921. “There it lies, however, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you use...

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  • ‘How Sweet It Is!’ is a gangster’s paradise

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 27, 2015 | 10:44 am

    The first voice you hear in the latest novel by Thane Rosenbaum, “How Sweet It Is!” (Mandel Vilar Press), belongs to the Great One himself, Jackie Gleason. 

    “Miami Beach is magical, but it is the magic of the dark arts,” Gleason is made to say. “Black magic masquerading as...

  • An incomplete view of Mark Rothko

    April 30, 2015 | 10:54 am

    Annie Cohen-Solal previously has written two extremely well-received biographies – one on Jean-Paul Sartre and another on the famous art dealer Leo Castelli, but she can’t seem to find on the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko. Her new biography, “Mark Rothko” (Yale...

  • An extensive history of the Holocaust

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    April 9, 2015 | 10:53 am

    On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we are confronted by a bitter irony. The vast and ever-expanded scholarship of the Shoah has never been greater, and yet, at the same time, we still hear insistent voices that minimize or even deny that it happened. That’s why the most crucial form of...

  • A ‘Frank’ assessment

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    March 11, 2015 | 1:11 pm

    Now and then, a politician comes along who is both cantankerous and somehow lovable, highly principled and yet open to argument, possessed of both a sense of honor and a sense of humor. The late New York Mayor Ed Koch was one example, and Arizona Sen. John McCain is another. And so...

  • Alan Lightman turns to remembering a life in the South

    March 6, 2015 | 12:38 pm

    It feels as if Alan Lightman has been forgetting large pieces of his past for decades; his reinvention seems intentional.  This very talented 66-year-old writer and theoretical physicist has produced beautiful works of fiction that examine the fragility of the human experience...

  • ‘Anonymous Soldiers’ looks at terrorism from another troubling angle

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 25, 2015 | 12:43 pm

    “Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947” by Bruce Hoffman (Knopf) offers an uncomfortable but crucial message: Terrorism works. And the book is all the more disturbing because the examples Hoffman considers are the Irgun and Lehi (perhaps better known as the “Stern...

  • Martin Amis goes inside a fictional Nazi mind

    February 20, 2015 | 11:02 am

    While watching Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem in 1961, the philosopher Hannah Arendt wondered: “Could the activity of thinking as such … be of such a nature that it 'conditions' men against evildoing?" To Arendt, Eichmann’s incapacity for critical thinking mirrored the...

  • The case against academic boycotts of Israel

    February 16, 2015 | 12:00 pm

    Cary Nelson and Gabriel Brahm, in less than a year, were able to assemble, edit, index, and bring to press a 500-plus page thoughtful volume of essays, outlining many of the problems with boycotting (some would say blacklisting) Israeli academic institutions (and, as the book...

  • Ghosts of exile, examined

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 12, 2015 | 10:23 am

    Roger Cohen is an observer of Israel and the Middle East whose voice is especially commanding, and not only because he writes for The New York Times. As a former foreign correspondent, he is deeply experienced in the travails and troubles of the contemporary world. In “The Girl...

  • The post-war West Germans’ post-Holocaust distortions

    February 6, 2015 | 4:11 pm

    Historians understand that language is not a benign force.  It has tremendous power to radically alter our perception of the “truth.”  Those in power who control the dominant cultural narrative can create an accepted historical reality that never existed, or one that integrates...

  • Moving ‘God, Faith & Identity’ passes mantle of remembrance

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 28, 2015 | 2:56 pm

    Seventy years ago, the Red Army liberated the death camp at Auschwitz, an event that now marks the observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Ever since that day, we have been struggling to explain and understand what happened in the killing fields and concentration...

  • Can the ‘Creative Class’ survive?

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 14, 2015 | 1:14 pm

    The digital revolution has its winners and losers. If a question comes up in dinner conversation, there’s no item of information so obscure or so trivial that we cannot find it in a few seconds with a Google search on our smartphones. But, then, I have come to believe that...

  • Norton’s ‘Anthology of World Religions’: Our Prayers Have Been Answered

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 30, 2014 | 1:08 pm

    The publishing house of W.W. Norton is celebrated for the art of the anthology, whether it is a classic like “The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry” or Reza Aslan’s recent groundbreaking collection, “Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes From the Modern Middle East.”...

  • The welcome enemy: Nazis in the U.S.

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 11, 2014 | 1:35 pm

    One of the bitter facts of history is that the United States’ immigration quota for Germany and Austria went unfilled during the 1930s when hundreds of thousands of Jews were clamoring to escape the Third Reich. And further, when the war against Germany was finally won in 1945,...

  • A pre-Holocaust home movie opens a window into a lost world

    December 5, 2014 | 3:44 pm

    Fifty-one year old Glenn Kurtz grew up obsessed with becoming a classical guitarist.  His dream fizzled in his mid-twenties when he realized he was good, just not great.  In his thirties, he wrote a beautiful book, “Practicing A Musician’s Return to Music,” that explored his return...

  • Leaving religious life: The ‘un-Orthodox’ path

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 21, 2014 | 12:09 pm

    The path between the secular world and highly observant Judaism is a two-way street. The baal t’shuvah travels in one direction, but he or she may be taking the place of someone who has abandoned Orthodoxy.  It is these so-called “defectors” whose lives are explored with color and...

  • Do Jews need more chutzpah? Does Judaism?

    By Michael Berenbaum

    November 19, 2014 | 1:46 pm

    I began reading Rabbi Edward Feinstein’s “The Chutzpah Imperative: Empowering Today’s Jews for a Life that Matters” (Jewish Lights) with two conflicting emotions — admiration and skepticism. Every time I have been in the presence of Feinstein, I have learned something — large or...

  • A future without Jews; If anti-Semitism won

    October 29, 2014 | 11:40 am

    Just how frightening is it to be a British Jew these days? Although it’s comforting to know that the security guard who prohibited two Jewish boys from entering a sporting goods store in Hertfordshire, England, last month was fired, Jewish residents are starting to feel...

  • Anita Diamant’s ‘The Boston Girl’: An immigrant’s tale, hanging onto the old ways

    October 27, 2014 | 8:46 am

    From the opening of Anita Diamant’s heartwarming novel, “The Boston Girl,” (Scribner), when Addie Bauman, an 85-year-old grandmother recounts her life story to her granddaughter, I was struck by the similarities between the Jewish cultural beliefs and mores in Boston in 1915, when...

  • Home is where ‘The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.’ is

    October 8, 2014 | 9:49 am

    Gina B. Nahai’s new novel, “The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.” (Akashic Books) is a wildly inventive story of the Soleyman family that travels back and forth in time between 1950s Tehran and present-day Los Angeles. This Iranian Jewish clan was thriving in Iran before Ayatollah...

  • Jules Feiffer’s ‘Kill My Mother’: You’ll Die Laughing

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 17, 2014 | 3:41 pm

    Last week, I happened to catch the 1971 movie “Little Murders,” adapted by Jules Feiffer from his stage play. It’s a black comedy, mordant but full of insight into the American psyche and the zeitgeist of the era, and it reminded me of the role that Feiffer, and especially his...

  • Portrait of a very human King David

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 10, 2014 | 9:15 am

    When Jews gather to pray, we invoke the Patriarchs and, in some synagogues, the Matriarchs, the Prophets and Mosheh Rabbenu.  The glorious King David, by contrast, is mostly mentioned in connection with the Psalms, whose authorship is attributed to him in pious Jewish tradition....

  • Amidst celebrity, Daphne Merkin is wishing still for mother’s love

    August 26, 2014 | 9:09 am

    If you were the wild child among more submissive siblings, who refused to be silenced and cried continually, and fought with all the others about their glaring hypocrisies; chances are you were not your parents’ favorite child.  If you sometimes made disturbing comments about...

  • ‘The Lion’s Gate’: Firsthand accounts of the Six Day War

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    July 23, 2014 | 1:05 pm

    From a distance of a half-century, the Six Day War looks very different indeed from what is happening today on the Gaza border, but “The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War” by Steven Pressfield (Sentinel) is a kind of companion reader for those of us who are...

  • Fear of the apocalypse and Edan Lepucki’s ‘California’

    July 15, 2014 | 2:07 pm

    Fear of a publishing apocalypse, to be precise. Most of us never would have heard about Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California, about a post-apocalyptic Golden State, except for a battle between Amazon and book publishers.  Here’s a short version of a long story: California’s...

  • The true story of how scientists battled Typhus and sabotaged the Nazis

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    July 9, 2014 | 10:29 am

    By now, of course, we know full well that the Holocaust is a bottomless pit. More than a half-century after the liberation of the last camp, new and wholly unsuspecting tales of both suffering and redemption continue to reach us. “The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two...

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