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  • ‘The Fame Lunches’: Daphne Merkin is still wishing for mother’s love

    3 weeks ago

    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...

  • My Patient, The Terrorist!

    By Dr. Afshine Emrani

    February 18, 2014 | 5:24 pm

    A 52 year old diabetic man was urgently referred to me for cardiac clearance because of an abnormal electrocardiogram.  He had fractured his shoulder in a motorcycle accident and needed emergency surgery.

    We took him in promptly as a walk-in patient.  After the consultation, I...

  • ‘Broad City’ a broad mess

    By Melissa Weller

    January 24, 2014 | 4:44 pm

    A favorite sport for entertainers, writers and the writers who write about them is diving into the vast swimming pool of millennial content. One of the more recent participants comes in the form of Comedy Central’s Broad City, which premiered Wednesday after its graduation from a...

  • Archaeology, truth, Jerusalem

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 3, 2014 | 2:06 pm

    Archaeology is more than a science when it comes to Jerusalem, a place where the turn of the spade may reveal an artifact that has political and theological overtones. Katharina Galor and Hanswulf Bloedhorn, authors of “The Archeology of Jerusalem: From the Origins to the Ottomans”...

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  • Three different ‘Family’ ways

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 12, 2013 | 1:25 pm

    Word of mouth is the real maker of best sellers in the publishing world, and I can think of few books with quite as much buzz as David Laskin’s remarkable family chronicle, “The Family: Three Journeys Into the Heart of the Twentieth Century” (Viking, $32).

    Laskin tells a story —...

  • Living at the heart of a “Promised Land”

    By Michael Berenbaum

    December 12, 2013 | 11:16 am

    Ari Shavit, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2013) pp. 449).

    The anguish of the believer is not the same as that of the renegade, and Ari Shavit writes as a believer in the Zionist enterprise. Not Zionism in the mystical sense that...

  • Payne’s ‘Nebraska’ a small-town triumph

    By Melissa Weller

    December 8, 2013 | 1:20 pm

    Imagine what a movie showcasing an ordinary, lukewarm existence might look like. One without mobs or crooked cops and the only color in the characters’ lives is the blue on their collar. Worse still, life is totally ordinary and you live in Billings, Montana. Your great romantic...

  • We are all ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

    By Tom Teicholz

    December 6, 2013 | 2:46 pm

    “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Joel and Ethan Coen’s new film, is the fictional story of one week in the life of a folksinger in Greenwich Village in 1961. The title character, played with total conviction by Oscar Isaac and supplied with credible material by the maven of American music,...

  • Warsaw’s other uprising

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 4, 2013 | 6:34 pm

    For most Jewish readers, I suspect, the phrase “Warsaw uprising” refers to the stirring last stand of the Jewish ghetto fighters in 1943.  But there was quite another upwelling of armed resistance in Warsaw a year later, and that’s the focus of “Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler and the...

  • Financial planning for a move to Israel

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 21, 2013 | 2:44 pm

    What I know about Israel comes from a variety of sources, including the news and commentary in this newspaper, countless books, my own experiences as a traveler to Israel, and the Facebook postings of my friends who live there. But the information and insights in “A Financial Guide...

  • ‘Aftermath’ exposes dark secrets in Poland

    By Tom Tugend

    November 13, 2013 | 2:15 pm

    The Nazi occupation of most of Europe during World War II and the Holocaust tested the moral fiber not only of the individual citizen but also of entire nations.

    Today, 68 years after the guns fell silent in Europe and the Far East, historians and filmmakers not-yet-born in 1945...

  • The problems with the problems with ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’

    By Melissa Weller

    November 5, 2013 | 4:06 pm

    Describing exactly the way Blue is the Warmest Color affected me, as I’m sure it did millions of people, is a struggle, especially from a critical standpoint. It’s an intimate and subjective reflection of people, places and times, carrying the hours with tides of raw emotion rather...

  • 2 authors, 2 takes on Jewish humor and theology

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    October 30, 2013 | 12:53 pm

    Jewish humor and Jewish theology share something in common. I can think of any number of jokes whose punch lines say something profound about God (“Work with me here — buy a ticket!”). And we need only consult the Torah to discover how the matriarch Sarah responded when God...

  • Fritz Kuhn and the German-American Bund

    October 29, 2013 | 11:33 am

    Everyone is familiar with Adolf Hitler and the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. Few remember that in the mid- to late-1930s the United States experienced a Nazi crusade of its own, one led by Fritz Julius Kuhn (1896-1951), a radical anti-Semite who dreamed of a fascist America led by...

  • Review: ‘Kill Your Darlings,’ but phone it in

    By Melissa Weller

    October 22, 2013 | 5:19 pm

    Those who walked into the theater hoping to walk out with an enlightened appreciation of the significance surrounding these legendary writers and the Beat Movement they inspired were surprised, at best, to find a chick flick noir instead. Set in 1943, “Kill Your Darlings” follows...

  • The art of feeling Sholem Aleichem’s unforgettable legacy

    October 22, 2013 | 1:59 pm

    Never underestimate the enormous emotional power of a piercing narrative voice, one that can decimate and exhilarate the reader, often simultaneously.  Listen to the eloquence of Israeli author David Grossman recounting his early experiences reading Sholem Aleichem, one of the...

  • ‘Fiddler’ makes the world richer

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    October 3, 2013 | 4:42 pm

    On a visit to Budapest earlier this year, my wife and I asked the concierge at our hotel for a restaurant where we could find authentic Hungarian fare.  As we took our seats in the bustling little place he recommended, I was encouraged to see a house band tucked away in the corner,...

  • Amos Oz: Alone among friends

    September 26, 2013 | 1:52 pm

    I believe Amos Oz desperately wanted to become a better man than his father was.  It feels as if he has spent his lifetime trying to nurture inside himself an empathy that he believed his father lacked.  The famous, 73-year-old Israeli author of more than 30 books, including his...

  • The consequences of Israel's contradictory dreams

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 24, 2013 | 4:27 pm

    The stirring scene that opens “Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation,” by Yossi Klein Halevi (Harper, $35), is a flashback to the night of June 6, 1967, when the 55th Paratroopers Reserve Brigade of the Israel Defense...

  • ‘The Friedkin Connection’: Living forward, looking back

    September 24, 2013 | 4:05 pm

    In the prologue to his new memoir, “The Friedkin Connection,” Academy Award-winning director William Friedkin writes, “Life is lived forward, but can only be understood backward.”

    As he looks backward on a career spanning some 50 years, the director perhaps best known for the...

  • The Jewish Jane Austen

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 18, 2013 | 12:22 pm

    One of the remarkable things about Ruchama King Feuerman’s second novel, “In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist” (New York Review of Books, $9.99) is the fact it is only available as an ebook in the NYRB Lit series.  Such is the fate of literary fiction nowadays, and it remains to be...

  • Kafka — demystifying the man behind the “Kafkaesque” mystique

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 12, 2013 | 12:12 pm

    Franz Kafka has entered our language as an adjective — “Kafkaesque” is applied nowadays to almost anything that strikes us as senseless or surreal — but the man himself remains obscure. Saul Friedlander’s short biography in Yale’s Jewish Lives series, “Kafka: The Poet of Shame and...

  • Politics, poetry & pop: An Autumn of literary options

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 6, 2013 | 2:47 pm

    This fall’s book season brings forth an unusually rich and provocative crop of new works by famous and revered authors, some for children and some for adults, some from abroad, but many from right here in Southern California.

    Among the brightest literary lights in Los Angeles is...

  • The Newsroom: Second season, second thoughts

    By Melissa Weller

    September 4, 2013 | 12:46 pm

    The Newsroom is back again for the first time!

    I was hesitant to hop in the saddle for a second go at Newsroom, especially with an already packed schedule of Breaking Bad, Top of the Lake, re-re-watching Orange is the New Black and replying to a heavy influx of fan mail after one...

  • Power of Yizkor

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 3, 2013 | 12:40 pm

    I suppose that Kol Nidrei is still the best-attended service of the Jewish calendar, but surely the memorial service known as Yizkor is a close second. After all, Yizkor — which means “May God remember…” — is the moment when we are invited to recall in solemn prayer the loved ones...

  • The mystery of the missing husband

    August 28, 2013 | 5:28 pm

    While reviewing “The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons (Plume Original), the bestselling author of “The House at Tyneford,” I was also reading Ralph Ellison’s, “The Invisible Man,” and the thought occurred to me that invisibility can take many forms that might have...

  • ‘Resistance’ was not futile

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    August 14, 2013 | 2:42 pm

    As one of the very few reviewers who found fault with Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” I once wrote that I would have preferred a film based on “Defiance,” Nechama Tec’s brilliant study of the Bielski partisans, which shows Jews not as the passive beneficiaries of a Nazi...

  • A work unworthy of Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker

    By Michael Berenbaum

    August 14, 2013 | 11:41 am

    What is a reviewer to do when a truly gifted writer writes a genuinely awful book?

    I suspect that I was invited to write this review because the editor suspected that I might be open to the author’s experience, moved by the power of her words, and might not dismiss her critique...

  • An accidental theologist tackles Muhammad bio

    By Roberto Loiederman

    August 7, 2013 | 10:33 am

    In 2010, Lesley Hazleton was asked to give a brief talk about the Quran. 

    “As far as I was concerned, I was talking to those several hundred people in the hall,” Hazleton said in a recent phone interview. “I certainly had no idea that a nine-minute video about reading the Quran...

  • The importance of ‘Paper’

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    August 2, 2013 | 10:27 am

    A profound irony suffuses this book review.  “Paper, An Elegy” by Ian Sansom (William Morrow/HarperCollins, $24.99) is a celebration of the civilizing function of pulped vegetable matter, but you are reading about the book in the paperless environment of the Internet.  And so...

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