Years ago, I created a class, “Writer’s Marketplace,” dedicated to the business side of writing. It was inspired by all the I-wish-I’d-known-then-what-I-know-now moments in my own career, the realization that good writers often are clueless about how to sell their work, and that writing schools are often remiss in communicating the practical aspects of the profession to their students.
More than 100 James Joyce enthusiasts, performance artists and Irish descendants gathered at Westwood’s Hammer Museum on June 16 to celebrate Bloomsday. Taken from the name of Leopold Bloom, the assimilated Jewish protagonist in Joyce’s monumental book, “Ulysses,” the event celebrates the life of the Irish writer and relives the events of the day the tale is set: June 16, 1904.
Not long ago, I reviewed Peter Longerich's benchmark biography of Heinrich Himmler in these pages -- a work of meticulous and compelling scholarship about the master architect of the Final Solution, a mostly ordinary human being whose claim on history is that he succeeded in putting Hitler's apocalyptic fantasies about mass murder into operation on an industrial scale.
Jewish author Anthony Horowitz has been commissioned by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle to write a full-length Sherlock Holmes novel. Horowitz, author of the popular young adult series about teenage spy Alex Rider, told The Guardian Tuesday that he set about writing "a first-rate mystery for a modern audience while remaining absolutely true to the spirit of the original." Horowitz said he fell in love with Sherlock Holmes stories when he was 16.
What bestselling author Jennifer Weiner remembers most about her bat mitzvah is her hair.
"It was really unfortunate hair, really tragic -- like short and feathered and awful," said Weiner, author of "In Her Shoes," which was adapted as a 2005 film starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette.
When Perestroika came in 1985, anti-Jewish feeling in Russia became even more overt than it had been during the Soviet era.
Twenty-nine-year-old Dahlia Finger, the antihero of Elisa Albert's debut novel, "The Book of Dahlia," has an inoperable brain tumor and an attitude.
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."
Some people cap a career by writing a memoir or an exhaustive magnum opus based on a lifetime of research. But after eight books and 30 years at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York as rabbi and professor, Burton L. Visotzky decided to write a novel. A work of Jewish historical fiction, to be more precise.
Interview with novelist Michael Chabon.
Our summers have markers, memories that trigger a specific time: The summer of the walk on the moon, Hurricane Bob or the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles; personal events like a high school prom, a kitchen renovation or a houseguest who long overstays.
Somehow, this most blatant form of self-promotion, this venue that, until a couple of hours ago, had looked to me like a literary meat market, has suddenly reminded me of the reason I started writing in the first place: to tell a good story; a story about Jews; a story that in its own small way continues the tale of this people who have had to struggle, in every generation, to ensure that their story doesn't end.
One of the best American short story writers, Apple has just published "The Jew of Home Depot and Other Stories" (Johns Hopkins Press), his first collection of stories in 20 years. He writes with the same playful imagination and comic intelligence as in his earlier stories, layered with irony and an infallible sense of detail.
Israel beyond the headlines, a country that has produced a world-class literature.
Eighteen years ago, in "The Player," Tolkin introduced us to Griffin Mill, a studio executive who gets away with murder -- literally.
"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.
An enjoyable chick-lit book, "The Devil Wears Prada," in movie form follows the novel's storyline, with slight modifications to the plot that only enhance our understanding of Andy's dilemma. And for the fashion buff, the insider's view of the inner workings of a haute couture, albeit fictional, fashion magazine are amusing.
Published plays -- especially those in anthologies -- tend to be dismissed by the casual browser as specialty items, of interest only to students of theater history or to actors in search of audition material. Ellen Schiff and Michael Posnick clearly had something else in mind when they compiled their lively new collection, "Nine Contemporary Jewish Plays."
Salman Rushdie is at Disney Hall, addressing a near-capacity audience as part of the Music Center's 2006 Speaker Series. He has come this March 1 evening to talk about politics and art, truth and tyranny, free and forbidden speech. He has come, also, to promote his newest book.
Natalie Portman has probably populated more fanboy fantasies than anyone this side of Jessica Alba.
Besides presiding over the recent "Star Wars" films as Queen Amidala, she plays a bald, beautiful and badass revolutionary in "V For Vendetta," opening March 17, the latest film from "Matrix" masterminds Andy and Larry Wachowski. As the missing link between the universes of George Lucas and the Wachowski Brothers, Portman holds a unique place in geek-movie history
"The Five" is a novel set in Odessa at the dawn of the 20th century, unfolding the story of a colorful upper-middle-class Jewish family and its path of assimilation. An autobiographical tale, it's also a romantic portrait of the cosmopolitan city Jabotinsky loved and a life that is no more.
Writing is said to be a lonely business, solitary in the task to fill up so many empty pages. And before I decided to try my hand at writing my autobiographical novel, "The Other Shulman," I'll confess I had fears about such an undertaking.
While some admirers have envisioned Wiesenthal as a Jewish John Wayne or James Bond, the diminutive Kingsley, who has played numerous Jewish characters in his film career, including Meyer Lansky in "Bugsy" and Fagin in the current "Oliver Twist," depicts him as a much more modest man, frail after the camps, dedicated to his work, not given to swagger or seduction.
"The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt" edited by Ruth Andrew Ellenson (Dutton, $24.95).
When Ruth Andrew Ellenson achieved the writer's milestone of selling her first book, her father responded in classic Jewish parental fashion.
"He was thrilled and said, 'Honey, that's wonderful.' Then there was a long pause," Ellenson recalled. "And he said, 'I guess this means I have to wait longer for grandchildren.'"
As the editor of the newly released "The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt," Ellenson now has both the professional and personal credentials to speak on behalf of any Jewish woman who struggles with the notion of "letting my people down. I've always been interested in what's complicated about being Jewish and how you balance the different parts of life," said the 31-year-old freelance journalist. "Jewish women have been given opportunities they never had before. We live in a time of choice and so there are myriad new ways to feel guilty."
Lately, I've been thinking about two novels I recently enjoyed: "The Other Shulman" by Alan Zweibel (Villard, $23.95), and "Joy Comes in the Morning" by Jonathan Rosen (Picador, $14).
Nineteen-year-old Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Cpl. Nachshon Waxman was off duty when Hamas operatives kidnapped him in October 1994.
Israel Prize laureate Ehud Manor passed away in April but his beloved songs live on in the hearts of Israelis.
Masterfully, Krauss ties together the stories of Gursky and the young Alma as each searches for clues about "The History of Love."
One of the pleasures of reading "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," Jonathan Safran Foer's absorbing new novel, is that the experience helped me understand why I was so incapable of enjoying Foer's first book, the into-30-languages-translated, into-major-motion-picture-being-made "Everything Is Illuminated" -- or why (to take the blame off myself) that last book, published in 2002, was so ill suited to being enjoyed by me. I'm even thinking of making a peace offering to "Everything Is Illuminated," trying to reach some sort of détente, maybe seeing if we'd prefer each other's company the second time around.
Stories and symbols intersect in unexpected places in Pearl Abraham's intricate and complex third novel, "The Seventh Beggar," a vivid meditation on the nature of creation.
Can you imagine an Orthodox bar mitzvah celebrated in the Arizona desert soon after the Civil War -- with a guest list that includes Apache warriors, gun-slinging outlaws and a minyan imported from Tombstone?
Recently, I found myself spellbound while watching "Girl With a Pearl Earring." This film, based on the excellent Tracy Chevalier novel, is a fictional account of the history behind Vermeer's famous painting of the same name. The novel revolves around a servant girl, Grete, who became a secret assistant to the painter in his studio. In one scene, Vermeer accidentally glimpses Grete with her hair uncovered. The moment is electric. Grete, like all women of her social station, covered her hair at all times. It was as if Vermeer had caught her unclothed.
It seems the Jewish tradition of matchmaking is alive and well these days, as two very different Jewish novels on matchmaking come to us just in time for Valentine's Day.
"Seven Blessings" by Ruchama King (St. Martin's Press, 2003) is out in paperback, and focuses on the Orthodox Jewish community, specifically American and Canadian ba'alei teshuvah living in Jerusalem.
No. 2, "Matchbook: The Diary of a Modern-Day Matchmaker" by Samantha Daniels was released in hardcover this month. Daniels' story centers on the trials of a single Jewish matchmaker whose clients are single New Yorkers -- both Jewish and non-Jewish.
"The Final Solution: A Story of Detection" by Michael Chabon (Fourth Estate/HarperCollins, $16.95).
Depending on their authors' predilections, so-called "literary" novels are often unsettling, disturbing, enlightening or tragicomic. They are not, in the main, much fun. Fun is left to hacks, those genre writers who churn out the chick-lit blockbusters, weepy romances, thrillers, sci-fi fantasies and blood-and-guts horrors that dominate the best-seller lists.
Since 1968, when his novel "My Michael" -- exquisitely narrated by a despairing young wife in Jerusalem -- mesmerized thousands of readers, Amos Oz has been recognized as one of Israel's most gifted and prolific authors. He has produced 22 books -- 11 novels, three collections of stories and novellas, one children's book, and seven books of articles and essays -- that have been translated into 35 languages. His work is his autobiography, and until now Oz had been reticent about his own life.
"I see Christmas as a cultural and family holiday," Joe Roth said, while the movie itself carries two main messages. It's first about the sense of family and community that supercedes any particular holiday. Secondly, it's a satire on the over-commercialization of Christmas."
The memory of the Holocaust has haunted the Jewish imagination for three generations. It represents the rupture in our communal history, its shadow falling on everything else. And yet, we have amassed new memories since. Three books by local authors use the legacy of the Holocaust in their attempts to grapple with many facets of the Cold War.
Confession: It's not Virginia Woolf I'm afraid of -- it's Cynthia Ozick. Even though she blurbed my last book (disclosure, disclosure) and once recommended me for a fellowship I didn't get (thanks for the memories, Mr. Guggenheim), still I'm afraid of her. She reminds me of Virginia Woolf, is why.
A brother announces to his sister that another sister has vanished, as "The First Desire" (Pantheon) opens. Nancy Reisman's highly-praised novel is unusual in many ways, from its premise to the quality of writing to its setting. She follows the lives of the Cohen family, from the Depression to the years following World War II, not on the Lower East Side or in Brooklyn, but in a stately neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y.
Sentence by sentence, this is an exquisite story of family. Reisman writes with assuredness and tenderness, as the story unfolds serially from five perspectives: three of the four Cohen sisters, the brother and their father's mistress.
Hurwitz's new page-turner, "The Program" reads like an expose of cult con artistry.
A historical romance, "Songbird," is told through the voice of Mia; when the novel opens in 1939, she is a 17-year-old vacationing with her family at a resort called Krzemieniec, "the Polish Athens."
Tony Eprile opens up the complex terrain of a changing South Africa in "The Persistence of Memory."
This is an ambitious novel, a novel of many ideas. Eprile is a gifted storyteller who delves into the inner life and family, and also politics, social commentary and warfare. The literary thread that links these different kinds of stories -- whether accounts of sensual meals, embarrassing school episodes or brutal battles -- and propels the narrative is suggested by the title: the way that memory, the act of remembering, shapes life and history.
"It's All True" (Simon & Schuster, 2004) by David Freeman offers us a portrait of an outsized Hollywood, so unbelievable that it must be dead on. It is, more precisely, a novel, lovingly unfolded about the movie business: How it works and how its players -- adults spoiled by too much money and power -- act out their lives. "Oh me-oh, my-oh," as Henry Wearie would say.
Wearie is the novel's hero. He is actually a fictitious character, a screenwriter trying to hustle a script idea into a movie deal, but in a voice that sounds eerily like that of Freeman, who himself is a screenwriter. In its way, this book serves as a more knowing successor to Freeman's earlier work, "A Hollywood Education," published 18 years ago, after the author had moved to Los Angeles from New York.
Years ago I wrote a novel. I don't remember how many years ago, but I began it on a typewriter, so you do the math.
I don't know how many Jewish psychics there are in Great Neck, N.Y., but Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is easy to spot in the lunchtime crowd at Bruce's, a restaurant and bakery in the heart of the Long Island town.
Tova Mirvis began her second novel with the thought of writing an Orthodox "Madame Bovary."
"The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage," edited by Loolwa Khazzoom (Seal Press, $16.95)
On the last night before her family would flee Libya in 1967, Gina Bublil Waldman recalls that she had to choose between taking her only warm sweater or a photo album with the words "Souvenir of Libya" on the cover. Its hand-painted image of a peaceful seascape was in absolute contrast to the political turbulence and danger her family faced. She packed the photos, remnants of a life she wouldn't know again.
Her essay is included in a compelling collection, "The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage," edited by Loolwa Khazzoom.
Laurie Gwen Shapiro is not, repeat not scion to a matzah fortune, like the heroine of her hyperkinetic new novel, "The Matzo Ball Heiress."
So what does a nice Jewish girl know about porn? Quite a bit.
From the beginning of his career, Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua has examined the complex relationship between Israeli Jews and Arabs, most notably in his 1964 novella, "Facing the Forests," and his early novel, "The Lover," set in Israel after the 1973 war.
Lev Raphael, a child of survivors, clearly knows this well. His new novel, "The German Money," tries to take on some of the questions that those who inherit the Holocaust must face. Raphael is also a mystery writer, so he is not only interested in recovering the past, but also in solving its mysteries. Because, as Faulkner implied, the past is always a mystery to us. We can never really know its truths. That's why it cannot die. There is too much for us to figure out.
Neither of these characters, driving at breakneck speed toward each other, are seeing anything too clearly. So a crash is expected. But with the prolific Joyce Carol Oates' deft and dark hands on both wheels, the carnage is far worse than is easily imagined.
Can a work of fiction be important without being successful? If so, it would look pretty much like "Foiglman," by the distinguished Israeli author, Aharon Megged.
"Foiglman" was originally published in Israel in 1988 and is being issued here for the first time in English by Toby Press, a Connecticut-based firm with an active editorial office in Jerusalem that has been busily acquiring backlists of leading Israeli writers.
Megged's book is a novel of ideas in which ideas completely overpower the novel itself.
"An Hour in Paradise: Stories" by Joan Leegant (Norton, $23.95).
People imagine that, as a book critic, I read so much that there must be dozens of books I enjoy each year. But the truth is, books about which I am totally enthusiastic appear only every few years. Joan Leegant's terrific first book of stories, "An Hour in Paradise," is one of those books.
"The Rabbi and the Hit Man," by Arthur J. Magida (HarperCollins, $24.95).
If not for the legion of pederast priests unmasked like some gruesome ecclesiastical episode of "Scooby Doo," Rabbi Fred Neulander might have been a shoo-in for "most infamous religious figure of the past decade."
Now, it's a toss-up. So be it.
Yet after tearing through Arthur J. Magida's "The Rabbi and the Hit Man," the painstakingly detailed account of the rise and fall of Neulander, a philandering New Jersey rabbi who paid an assassin to bludgeon his wife to death in 1994, one can only lapse into a well-worn cliché. Truth is stranger than fiction.