Book review of "The End of The Jews", a literary family saga built around three narratives in different time frames, opening with Tristan Brodsky, "15 years old, the sum total of five thousand years of Jewry, one week into City College, a mind on him like a diamond cutter."
And so, my two favorite playwrights find themselves on opposite sides of a longstanding Jewish divide. "All sound creative art is rooted in a ghetto," the critic Ludwig Lewisohn once wrote. Once out of that ghetto, the roots bifurcate, and we Jews have fashioned two strategies for survival. For the Mamets, salvation lies in toughness and certainty, the People of the Butch. For Kushner, our promise is in compromise and doubt.
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 author Charlotte Mendelson about her novel "When We Were Bad".
A new bookshelf, overflowing with volumes, testifies to Gady Levy's latest and perhaps most ambitious endeavor: the Celebration of Jewish Books, which begins on Monday and extends through an all-day festival on Sunday. The celebration will offer lectures and signings with 40 authors -- including big names, such as Larry King, Michael Chabon, Kirk Douglas and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) -- plus music and dance performances, food and a thousand titles for sale, provided by Borders and the Hebrew-language bookseller Steimatzky.
In the living room of novelist Merrill Joan Gerber's home in Sierra Madre is a harpsichord that is most often played by her husband, a retired Pasadena City College history professor. The presence of this musical instrument is fitting, because music plays a major role in Gerber's latest book, "The Victory Gardens of Brooklyn." At one point in "Victory Gardens," Gerber's 27th book, the central character, Musetta, a pianist and stand-in for Gerber's own mother, ponders the magic of music. It "made her feel she was flying outside over the treetops, over the river, away past Brooklyn, past the cemeteries and the houses and the endless stores of dead chickens and glassy-eyed fish."
Those of us who self-righteously claim we never watch TV always have to list the one or two or 20 shows we make an exception for, and the newest show on my list is "Mad Men."
"I don't think it's possible to write a really interesting or good book without the Holocaust being in it. Even if you're not Jewish, you're a Jewish writer. If it doesn't enter your consciousness, you're not a serious artist." So said novelist Leslie Epstein, author most recently of "The Eighth Wonder of the World" in a phone interview from his office at Boston University, where he chairs the creative writing department.
In fact, it could be said that in America today, we have a new definition of a Jewish writer: A Jewish writer is one who is asked to participate in a panel during which she will be asked the question, "Do you consider yourself a Jewish writer?"