Books


Toothy in Gotham

By Joshua Cohen

‘Chronic City” initially seemed an important and pleasurable novel to review, just as it must have initially seemed, to Jonathan Lethem, an important and pleasurable novel to write. The ideal reviewer, as if a character in science fiction, relives the writer’s experience word by word, sentence by sentence. The reviewer becomes, in a sense, the author’s projection or double, questioning choices of plot, wording and punctuation, and revising paragraphs and pages, until what results is an alternate book: Like it or not, you’re reading my own version of “Chronic City” now. (This is apropos of nothing much. But it seemed important and pleasurable enough at the beginning.)Read More


Immortal Bloodsucking Opportunists

By Laura Hodes

Anne Rice declared in 2005 in the Author’s Note to her novel “Christ the Lord” that her return to Catholicism meant she would no longer “write anything that wasn’t for Christ.” She professed no more vampires, since they reflected a “world that didn’t include redemption.” In her new novel, “Angel Time: The Songs of the Seraphim,” then, Rice creates a new hero, one who seeks redemption with the divine aid of an angel and explores another idea from that same Author’s Note: that the sheer miraculousness of Jewish survival is proof to her of God.Read More


Six Takes on God

By Gordon Haber

Regular readers of the book review pages (or even of books) are no doubt familiar with the so-called New Atheists — Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, in order of increasing shrillness — and how they’ve been raising hackles with their screeds. After reading their books last year, I could see why people were ticked off. The New Atheists like to conflate any kind of religion with extremism, as if all believers were boneheaded fundamentalists. Similarly, they rail against a cruel, straw-man God, as if the fundamentalist projection of brutality onto the Creator is the only way to conceive of Him.Read More


Shrink And Grow

By Susan Shapiro

With many shrinks away between now and the end of the summer, Susan Shapiro, the author of the new novel “Speed Shrinking” (St. Martin’s Press) suggests abandoned patients get their fill of talk therapy from these works of fiction.Read More


La Mort Que Je Conviens

By Joshua Cohen

Ghérasim Luca was born in 1913 in Bucharest and, as a Jew and intellectuel, spoke Yiddish, Romanian, German and French, the last being the language of his books. A dissolute late adolescence found Luca traveling often through Paris, where he became interested in the movement called Surrealism. He spent the war hiding in Romania, which hated its Jews but occasionally sheltered them, too.Read More


Sting Like a Bee: Ali of the Typewriter

By Anthony Weiss

One of the last pieces A.J. Liebling ever wrote was about an up-and-coming boxer and versifier named Cassius Clay. Liebling wasn’t entirely sold on the egotistical young fighter, but he was clearly struck by Clay’s magnetism and the excitement he brought to the ring, and he sensed Clay’s promise.Read More


Receiving the Original Text Messages

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

As I sat next to Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz at a recent bar mitzvah reception, our chat turned to the Amazon Kindle. Ehrenkrantz, who is president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, is considering getting one.Read More


The Rise and Rise of Haredi Thrillers

By Benjamin Weiner

‘Elazar had the sensation of having left the secure boundaries of the world he knew,” reads an ominous sentence in the middle of Chaim Eliav’s “The Runaway” “and entered a strange new one — a dangerous world.” Like Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart in a Hitchcock thriller, the protagonist has been accidentally wrenched out of everyday life and thrust into an international imbroglio. But unlike Grant or Stewart, this improbable hero wears peyes. Eliav’s novel is a prime example of a new literary genre that has been blossoming, modestly, over the past decade: the Haredi potboiler.Read More


Disobedience As An Article of Faith

By Aryeh Kosman

Quoting Yeats’s famous image of a center that cannot hold and the anarchy that is thereby loosed upon the world, Rabbi Harold Schulweis begins the final chapter of his short book “Conscience” by asking, “Who, during such unstable times as ours, can quarrel with the call for heightening obedience to authority?” What’s refreshing about “Conscience” is that Schulweis in fact does quarrel with this call. His book is a brief for, if anything, disobedience.Read More


Words in Flux

The world of American Jewish letters isn’t what it used to be, and it’s changing in fascinating, manifold and, in many cases, encouraging ways.Read More





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