SNL’s Election Special, Art Spiegelman In Chicago, And 5 Other Things To Read, Watch And Do This Weekend
This week we start sharing events outside of New York as part of our normal roster; festivals of arts and ideas in Chicago and Washington, D.C. are up first. There’s a slew of new books to tempt you, regardless of what you’re craving – history, science fiction, some hearty Yiddish humor – and a few nights of comedy to help ward off the pre-election blues.
1) Keep an eye out for Larry David in the Saturday Night Live Election Special
Whether you think of next Tuesday’s presidential election as potentially apocalyptical or simply annoying, something on which most of us agree is that it will be more fun if preceded by a hearty dose of Larry David’s spot-on Bernie Sanders impression. Luckily, the folks behind SNL agree. They’ll air an election special Monday, November 7th revisiting their best political sketches from this most surreal of seasons. Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump will surely be center-stage, but we’re hoping to see a good deal of David as well.
2) Read up on Yiddish fiction from the Forward, newly translated into English
We’re biased, but we think the new anthology “Have I Got a Story For You: More Than a Century of Fiction From the Forward” edited by Forward critic-at-large Ezra Glinter is a stunner. Over its 120 years in print, the Forward has published Yiddish writers lauded and unknown; in “Have I Got a Story For You” a set of their stories receive their first English translations, giving readers new access to the experiences that shaped the lives of American Jews. Glinter has arranged the works according to five themes – immigration, the Old Country, and war foremost among them – and introduced them with short biographies of their authors. With pieces by writers including Isaac Bashevis Singer and Sholem Asch, the collection is a treat. (Also, the cover goes awfully well with pumpkin spice tea and candy corn. What could be nicer than that?)
3) Have a comedy snack with Rachel Dratch
TruTV’s “Rachel Dratch’s Late Night Snack,” a Dratch-curated collection of short-form comedy from different comedians, returns on Wednesday, November 2nd. Last season the show featured Alec Baldwin, Jim Gaffigan, Ellie Kemper and more; this season should feature similarly well-regarded comedians letting loose and getting wacky. Watch a sample sketch below.
4) Check out Philip Glass and Art Spiegelman at the Chicago Humanities Festival
The Chicago Humanities Festival is a yearly source of intellectual candy for Windy City residents, and Glass and Spiegelman are this year’s Jewish highlights. Glass appears Wednesday, November 2nd in discussion with Chicago Tribune arts critic Howard Reich; he’ll also give a brief solo performance. Spiegelman’s November 3rd appearance will focus on his new edition of “The Parade,” a little-known work of Jewish artist Si Lewen with the Festival’s Emeritus Artistic Director Lawrence Weschler.
5) Head to the Washington DCJCC’s Israel Arts DC festival
November 6-14th the DCJCC plays host to a sampling of Israeli arts and culture, with events ranging from a workshop in the Israeli dance form Gaga to a book talk by author Meir Shalev. Highlights will include Sunday’s “Israel Story Live,” during which the hosts of the popular Israeli podcast will present a show focused on diverse, surprising stories of Israeli women, and Monday’s “Man-O-Manischewitz: How a Kosher Wine Became Big With the American Public,” in which Roger Horowitz will discuss the brand’s everlasting, somewhat incomprehensible appeal.
6) Sit in on talks on Jews in sports and comics at the Museum of Jewish Heritage
This week the Museum of Jewish Heritage hosts discussions of Jews engaged in two quintessentially American pursuits: sports and comics. Wednesday, November 2nd Olympic synchronized swimmer Jane Katz joins former New York Times sports contributors Robert Lipsyte and Gerald Eskenazi for “It Wasn’t Only Sandy Koufax: The Jewish-American Experience in Sports,” a discussion of the history of Jewish American athletes and their cultural impact. Thursday, November 3rd the Museum partners with the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect and the Jewish Book Council for “Ink Bleeds History: Reclaiming and Redrawing the Jewish Image in Comics,” which features a panel including graphic novelists and comic artists Amy Kurzweil, Miriam Libicki, and the creators of the online series “Radzyn.” Learn, laugh, and come away with some creative inspiration.
7) Speaking of Miriam Libicki, check out the rest of this week’s hot reads
Libicki’s first collection of graphic essays, “Toward a Hot Jew,” was released November 1st; it covers everything from dating in the Israeli military to the complicated intersections of black and Jewish identity. Libicki, creator of the long-running series of autobiographical comics, “jobnik!,” is an accomplished storyteller, and her first book is already attracting attention. Along with her book and Glinter’s, fill out your shelf David Cesarani’s posthumously published “The Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949,” a monumental, minutely researched tome on the decades that decimated European Jewry, and Nava Semel’s newly translated “Isra Isle,” a multi-part imagination about what might have happened if Jews had followed the intention of nineteenth-century visionary Mordecia Manuel Noah and settled New York’s Grand Island.
Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture fellow. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @TalyaZax
After a screening of “The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer,” I replied to a chutzpedik questioner: “Isaac never hit on me!” A frequent visitor in the 1930s to my parents’ Leszno 6 one-room home in Warsaw when I was toddler, I reconnected with him in New York in the 1960s when he and my father were both Forverts contributors.
In 1973, when the Jewish studies Department of Queens College offered “The Novels of I .B. Singer With The Author Present,” I was in that SRO classroom. We read a novel a week. In an attempt to impress Singer, students parsed his characters through Freudian/Jungian filters. Sitting in a chair, facing the awe struck class, Singer shrugged: “I create a karakter un der karakter does vat der karakter vants.” Apropos his heroes’ romantic appetites and roamings, he said: “A man can have as many liaisons [and illegitimate] children as he wants–but not so a woman!”
After his Nobel Prize for Literature brouhaha in 1978, I told his wife Alma — who spoke no Yiddish who with Singer had been dinner guests at our home–that she, too, deserved a moment in the spotlight. Isaac was out when we schmoozed at their 86th Street apartment where her daughter Inga, from her first marriage, served me babka.
Masha Leon with Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1973 // Photo credit: Joseph Leon
“How do you feel about all the women who come onto him?” I ventured. “Thank God, now it’s mostly platonic,” she replied. The conversation covered stories that would have been grist for a Yiddish“Page 6.” Alma spoke of her supporting Singer after she left her first husband and two children for the skinny poor Yiddish writer. “Does he take your advice?” I asked. “And how!” “Do you act as his buffer?” Alma sighed: “He does not let me through, but I feel he absolutely overdoes it with interviews.”
Herman Broder is a gangly loser who’s won the biggest prize of all: his life. After surviving the Nazi onslaught in Poland by hiding in a haystack, he emigrates to America — specifically, Coney Island — with the gentile Polish woman who hid him, and who is now his wife. This is the setting of “Enemies: A Love Story,” a play performed for four nights last week by the Gesher Theater Company at the Frederick P. Rose Theater in New York.
This adaptation of a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer (published serially in the Forverts in 1966) unfolds as Herman reels from one agitation to another. It seems his one noble act — protecting his savior, who endangered her own life by saving his — is all he’s got. Now he is hurled between his wife Yadwiga and his mistress Masha on bumpy inter-borough subway rides that, amid the atmospherics of striking lighting and set design, comprise some of the play’s most affecting moments. That’s when actor Israel Demidov embodies the more sympathetic side of his anti-hero. Otherwise, he is an indecisive liar. (And beds ladies with his tie on, twice.)
Herman is by turns perplexed, lusty and suicidal. Then his wife Tamara shows up. He thought she was killed in the Holocaust along with their two children. But she reappears in New York, and although they are unnerved by meeting again, it seems there is no great love to rekindle. As the realization that he has two wives and a mistress sinks in for Herman — and eventually for all three of them — he reels ever more out of control, pinging between his home life with a now-pregnant wife so devoted to Herman that she wants to convert; the Bronx apartment where his demanding mistress, another Jewish survivor, lives with her elderly mother; and conversations with his undead wife, who transmits an odd mix of reproach and caring.
In 1991,Yevgeny Arye, a prominent Moscow stage director as well as a member of the Russian Academy, decided to emigrate to Israel. When they heard his plans, about a dozen of his Jewish students decided to accompany him.
They called themselves “Gesher” — Hebrew for “bridge” — and arrived in the midst of the Gulf War. Now the Gesher Theatre is on the road again. To help celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday, the company is coming to New York to perform “Enemies: A Love Story,” a theatrical adaptation of the novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer. It will performed June 6 to 9 at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall.
The group’s director general, Lena Kreindlin, spoke by telephone from Jaffa with The Arty Semite about the problems of adjusting (and rehearsing with gas masks on), Jewish life in Russia, and how a little despotism may be a good thing for art.
Curt Schleier: It must have been difficult making the transition from Russia to Israel.
Lena Kreindlin: Everything was a problem. First of all, we didn’t speak the language of this country. Second, we didn’t know anybody. Third, we didn’t have a house or anything. We didn’t have money. We didn’t have friends. And we didn’t have a vision for our lives. But we were stubborn and two weeks after we came we put on gas masks (when the air raid siren sounded) and continued rehearsals of our first show, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern [Are Dead]” by Tom Stoppard.
What 47th street is to New Yorkers, Hatton Garden, a street and area in the district of Holborn, has long been for Londoners a place to buy and sell jewelery. “Diamond Street: The Hidden World of Hatton Garden,” an anecdotally discursive, impressionistic history, was published by Hamish Hamilton. Its author, artist and writer Rachel Lichtenstein, was born in 1969 to a family of Polish Jewish origin. Lichtenstein is the daughter and granddaughter of jewelers, and her husband Adam currently manages the family shop. These close ties make for an unusually empathetic narrative, which might be expected from her previous books likewise inspired by London’s Jewish East End, “On Brick Lane”, also from Hamish Hamilton, and from Granta, “Rodinsky’s Room,” an homage to David Rodinsky, an ill-fated Jewish scholar.
“Diamond Street” cites generic similarities among jewelry districts worldwide, and indeed Hatton Garden welcomes Jews from “Israel, Iran, America, Holland, Britain, and many other countries,” notes Lichtenstein; she observes of the 1944 novel “Diamonds” by Esther Kreitman – the sister of Isaac Bashevis Singer — about gem merchant jewelers in Antwerp: “Kreitman could have been describing a scene today, such is the timeless quality of the Jewish diamond trade.” Yet since the Middle Ages, Hatton Garden has also boasted specifically British attributes as a jewelry center, as Lichtenstein underlines by citing Charles Dickens, who was familiar with the neighborhood. In Dickens’ novel “Bleak House”, one character describes Hatton Garden as a “poor neighbourhood, where they uses up the kettles till they’re past mending.”
Lichtenstein pauses with loving attention at such landmarks as a private synagogue designed by the 19th century British Jewish architect David Mocatta for Sir Moses Montefiore, which she describes as a “now derelict Grade II listed building” with an “abandoned exterior” that still somehow boasts a “pristine and grand” interior. More humble landmarks have now vanished, such as “Mrs. Cohen’s Kosher Café,” once a local meeting place, as has a sense of patient craftsmanship and mutual trust within a tight-knit community. As a transcriber of enthused and warm-hearted interviews, Lichtenstein strikes a tone somewhere between the Victorian Henry Mayhew and 20th century Manhattan’s unsurpassed characterful reporter Joseph Mitchell. In one telling moment, Lichtenstein removes her own wedding ring to examine a tiny craftsman’s mark made by its goldsmith, before recounting the latter gentleman’s wistfully monomaniacal life, entirely dedicated to workmanship rather than profit or self-seeking. Thanks in part to Lichtenstein, there’s life in the old area yet.
See Rachel Lichtenstein hosting a literary evening in London here
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