Arts & Culture


A ‘Matzo’ Mystery

By Philologos

We’re all eating it this week — in some cases, more than we’d like to — but why on earth do we spell it “matzo,” or “matzoh”? What Jew says, or ever did say, “mah-tso,” pronouncing the last syllable to rhyme with “oh” or “glow”? Ashkenazic Jews always have said “MAH-tse,” with the last syllable like the “e” inRead More


The Essential Louis Zukofsky

By David Kaufmann

Selected Poems By Louis Zukofsky, edited by Charles Bernstein Library of America, 191 pages, $20. * * *Louis Zukofsky, born into a pious, Yiddish-speaking household on New York City’s Lower East Side in 1904, seems to have jumped fully formed into American poetry. In 1928, when he was 24, his mentor and intellectual sparring partner,Read More


Allegra Goodman’s Science Fiction

By Zackary Sholem Berger

Intuition By Allegra Goodman The Dial Press, 352 pages, $25.* * *In her new novel, “Intuition,” Allegra Goodman invokes the world of medical research with the convincing detail of an insider and an outsider’s penetrating gaze. The book is a modern epic, a slimmed-down, suspenseful version of one of the 19th-century classics: a narrativeRead More


A Road Trip Through the Mideast Conflict

By Steven Zeitchik

When he’s at his best, Israeli auteur Amos Gitai captures the peculiar pain, and paradox, of individuals filled with national yearning. What a person needs from a country and what a country needs from a person should not on its face have reason to overlap, and Gitai is obsessed with why — and what happens when — people assume the twoRead More


Sweet’N Lowdown

Benjamin Eisenstadt’s obituary in The New York Times called him “a sweetener of lives,” for he invented not only the individual sugar packet but also the zero-calorie cash cow Sweet’N Low. In his new book, “Sweet and Low: A Family Story” (to be published this month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Eisenstadt’s grandson, Rich Cohen —Read More


Greener Pastures; or How The Israelites Found God

By Josie Glausiusz

The Natural History of the Bible:

An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures By Daniel Hillel Columbia University Press, 376 pages, $32.50. * * *As an idyll of pastoral serenity, the 23rd Psalm has few peers. It begins with familiar and comforting words: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie downRead More


The Goddess Matriarchy

By Philologos

Barry Dancis writes:“I recently began reading the book ‘When God Was a Women’ by Merlin Stone, written some 30 years ago. In it she points out that Near Eastern societies from 9000 BCE or thereabouts to 2500 BCE or somewhat later revered a supreme female deity or goddess (Astarte, Isis, etc.), and that the last of the goddess templesRead More


Techniques Of Understanding

By David Curzon

What are we to make of the sacrifices central to the Israelite cult described in Leviticus in such detail? The offering of “an ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering” to God can be dismissed in our mind as un-troubling, but the slaughter of animals as part of a religious ritual is much more disturbing: “In the place where theyRead More


Episcopalian, By Way of Yiddish

By Peter Manseau

Confessions of a Jewish Priest: From Secular Jewish War Refugee to Physicist and Episcopal Clergyman By Gabriel Weinreich Pilgrim Press, 177 pages, $25. * * *‘Yiddish has magic,” the linguist Max Weinreich once said. “It will outwit history.” But history, it turns out, also has a few tricks up its sleeve. For evidence, look no furtherRead More


Looking for Inspiration in All The Wrong Places

By Rebecca Reich

Memoirs of a Muse By Lara Vapnyar Pantheon, 224 pages, $22.95. * * *Tanya, the heroine of Lara Vapnyar’s first novel, “Memoirs of a Muse,” and (as far as Tanya is concerned) of numerous masterpieces yet to be created, doesn’t claim to be an expert on literature, but when it comes to choosing among the 19th-century writers whose photosRead More


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