Arts & Culture


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


Curses Show Language’s Creativity

By Sarah Kricheff

Lita Epstein does not have a dirty mouth. Her pen, however, is filthy. Epstein’s forthcoming book, “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Say It in Yiddish” (Citadel Press), offers page after page of Yiddish insults and curses, some of which would make even the bawdiest of sailors blush.Read More


Offerings of the Willing Heart

By David Curzon

The second half of Exodus is largely concerned with the construction of the tabernacle. For me, the most evocative aspect of all the detailed descriptions is this: And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: Take from among you an offeringRead More


A Gem Among Giants

By Alexander Gelfand

Irving Fine: An American

Composer in His Time (Lives in Music Series No. 8) By Phillip Ramey Pendragon Press, 334 pages, $32. * * *Flip to the back of Phillip Ramey’s“Irving Fine: An American Composer in His Time,” and you’ll find a clue as to why Fine, once a major figure in American art music, has been largely forgotten. ARead More


The Poetry of Mature Experience

By David Curzon

The Sights Along the Harbor: New and Collected Poems By Harvey Shapiro Wesleyan University Press, 288 pages, $29.95. * * *In his mother’s recollection, Harvey Shapiro’s first words were in Yiddish. Born in 1924 to an observant Jewish family, he lived as a child first on the Lower East Side, then high enough up on Riverside Drive for himRead More


Across the Boundaries of Language

By Joshua Cohen

Call It English: The Languages of Jewish American Literature By Hana Wirth-Nesher Princeton University Press, 256 pages, $39.50. * * *As we enter a world that will forever remain “multicultural,” the borders of our languages have become easier than ever to cross. Paradoxically, to understand all of what is said and what is written todayRead More


Reviving Jewish Ethics

By Joshua Halberstam

A Code of Jewish Ethics:

Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin Harmony/Bell Tower, 576 pages, $29.95. * * *The seven deadly sins, codified most likely in the 13th century, have enjoyed sustained notoriety, both ecclesiastical and in the public imagination. What is most noteworthy about these “capital sins,” as they areRead More


Tracing the History of Jewish Autobiography

By Alyssa Quint

Being for Myself Alone:

Origins of Jewish Autobiography By Marcus Moseley Stanford University Press, 650 pages, $70. * * *‘This is the Life Story of Judah Aryeh…. Few and evil have been the days of my life in this world… on Monday the 28th day of Nissan — corresponding to the 23d day of April 5331 — between theRead More


Understanding the Philosopher of Auschwitz

By David Kaufmann

Adorno By Stefan Müller-Doohm; translated by Rodney Livingstone Polity Press, 667 pages, $75.


Adorno: A Political Biography By Lorenz Jäger; translated by Stewart Spencer Yale University Press. 248 pages. $35. * * *Although Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was one of the two most prominent German philosophers of the postwar periodRead More


A New Name for an Old Crime

By Noah Strote

Terrible Fate: Ethnic Cleansing in the Making of Modern Europe By Benjamin Lieberman Ivan R. Dee, 416 pages, $27.50. * * *While Serb paramilitaries were driving Muslims from their homes in Bosnia during the spring of 1992 in an effort to rid the region of its “Muslim fundamentalist” population, Serb radio stations proudly coined aRead More


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