Books


Gershom Scholem’s Life, in His Own Words

By Daniel Elkind

In the early 1970s, Vienna-born writer and memoirist Jakov Lind returned to Israel after experiencing a mystical vision “on a very fine day about 3 in the afternoon, standing under the pines behind the Mirador, my small summer home in D.” In “The Trip to Jerusalem,” the book he wrote recounting his prodigal return, Lind recalls his audience with a man he simply calls the Professor: “a Jewish mystic in the disguise of a German scholar, born in Berlin,” who “came here in 1923, as a Zionist and to study Kabbalah.” Sitting in the same chair where Sartre, Graves, Grass, Borges, Buber and Agnon had sat before him, Lind told the Professor “about LSD and the Khazars” and how he came to think that he was “an ex-anti-Semite and maybe not a Jew.” But the Professor merely smiled, because, as Lind puts it, “nothing is new under the sun.” “Jews are not spiritual,” the Professor tells him. “The Christians are. We are a practical people.”Read More


A Mother’s Life

By Ilan Stavans

David Rieff, the only son of sociologist Philip Rieff and writer Susan Sontag, has written a memoir about his mother’s death, in December 2004, of complications from myelodysplastic syndrome, commonly known as MDS. Sontag, among the most lucid 20th-century American intellectuals, if also a queen of “hip posturing” (Harold Bloom’s expression) and a “sanctimonious moralist” (Camille Paglia’s) — famously reflected on illness as a metaphor (in 1978), on the spectacle of the AIDS epidemic (in 1988), and on torture in the Abu Ghraib prison and the impact of photographs about pain in the collective consciousness (in 2003).Read More


Faced With Death, an Unlikely Heroine Emerges

By Melanie Weiss

It sounds almost like the beginning of a terrible joke: What happens when a 29-year-old who has wasted much of her life gets a brain tumor? Except that instead of a joke, this is the premise of Elisa Albert’s new novel, “The Book of Dahlia”. Albert, author of the short-story collection “How This Night Is Different,” has taken on one of the most essential and universal questions: How do you face the end of your own life?Read More


New Manuscript, Same Conundrum

By Steven G. Kellman

Three years ago, a newly discovered manuscript became the talk of France. “Suite Française,” an uncompleted novel about the German invasion and occupation of France, attracted widespread interest in its author, Irène Némirovsky, who wrote in French and died because she was a Jew but never felt entirely French or Jewish. Indeed, as many critics have pointed out, for all its range of characters — urban and rural, peasant, bourgeois, and aristocrat, French and German, male and female, young and old — “Suite Française” lacks any Jewish character.Read More


In Defense of the (High) Art of Writing

By Sanford Pinsker

The Din in the Head By Cynthia Ozick Houghton Mifflin, 256 pages, $24. * * *It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that any person in possession of a large personal library will covet, if he or she does not already own, essays written by Cynthia Ozick. Why? Because Ozick’s paragraphs contain equal measuresRead More


Amid the Smokestacks, An American Dream

By Judy Bolton-Fasman

Now You See It… Stories from Cokesville, PA By Bathsheba Monk Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 240 pages, $22. * * *Cokesville, Pa., is a gritty fictional American shtetl. It is populated by Polish-Catholic émigrés and anchored by the steel mills in which they are employed. It is a place both defined and defeated by the customs of the OldRead More


Rivalry In the Time Of Cholera

By Holly Lebowitz Rossi

An Imperfect Lens By Anne Roiphe Shaye Areheart Books,

304 pages, $25. * * *Disease, horrifying as it can be in real life, usually makes for a good read — gripping, intense, fearful and always entertaining. Veteran novelist Anne Roiphe’s latest book, “An Imperfect Lens,” is a riveting work of historical fiction, taking theRead More


Haunted by the Ghosts of Traumas Past

By Irina Reyn

Blue Nude By Elizabeth Rosner Ballantine Books, 224 pages, $22.95. * * *‘In retrospect, I can see that I spent much of my childhood waiting for the war,” Eva Hoffman wrote in “After Such Knowledge: Where Memory of the Holocaust Ends and History Begins” (PublicAffairs, 2004), her renowned investigation of the trauma ofRead More


Shattering a Peaceful Facade

By Saul Austerlitz

The Attack By Yasmina Khadra Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 272 pages, $18.95. * * *The comparisons are inevitable, so let’s get the ball rolling: Yasmina Khadra’s new novel, “The Attack,” is a successor of sorts to the 2005 art house hit, “Paradise Now.” Like Hany Abu-Assad’s mournful, despairing film, “The Attack” isRead More





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