THE RUINED HOUSE
By Ruby Namdar
Translated by Hillel Halkin
514 pp. Harper. $29.99.
It’s been a season of reckoning for our high priests, as one after another, in the film industry, journalism, politics, academia and other fields, have been judged and sometimes punished for their sins. How eerie that Ruby Namdar’s strange and exhilarating novel, “The Ruined House,” should appear in English translation just now.
Paris is generally a great city for readers of comic strips, or what the French call bandes dessinées. But this spring, the City of Lights truly outdid itself, offering major museum retrospectives of the careers of two great American cartoonists: Art Spiegelman, at the Centre Georges Pompidou; and R. Crumb, at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. (more…)
Galit and Gilad Seliktar
Fanfare/Ponent Mon, 136 pages, $25
Why is it that graphic novels are so much more interesting these days than their prose siblings? (more…)
From Continuity to Contiguity: Toward a New Jewish Literary Thinking
By Dan Miron
Stanford University Press, 560 pages, $65
Dan Miron’s “From Continuity to Contiguity” is a work of Jewish literary theory — an exceedingly erudite one, and in some ways the most important to appear in recent decades — that reads a little like a mystery novel. The book begins with the idea that “continuity” is dead as a model for studying Jewish literature, and Miron, the Leonard Kaye Chair of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, even tells us who killed it: “the so-called Tel Aviv structuralist school of poetics.” (more…)
In the fall of 1924, Ludwig Lewisohn had all sorts of worries: He’d left his wife in New York and run off to Europe with a younger woman, and, on a recent jaunt to Poland, all the “filthy, starved, oppressed” Jews in Warsaw’s ghetto had depressed him. Clearly, he needed a therapist. Since he happened to be in central Europe, and since he never did anything by half measures, he had a friend lend him a room on Wahringerstrasse in Vienna, and went straight to Sigmund Freud. Though Freud, who lived a couple of blocks away, was happy to psychoanalyze him, Lewisohn ended his treatment after a few sessions. According to his biographer, Ralph Melnick, he feared “the loss of his anxieties” would be “the destruction of what had driven him as a writer.” (more…)
The Girl on the Fridge
By Etgar Keret
Translated by Miriam Shlesinger and Sondra Silverston
173 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Think of it this way: if you pay the cover price for Etgar Keret’s newly translated collection of stories, The Girl on the Fridge, you’ll be shelling out approximately 25 cents for each of the 46 fictions included. Some of them aren’t much longer than a paragraph, true, and some you’ll forget by the time you turn a page, but what do you expect for a lousy quarter, especially in this rotten economy? If even a handful of the stories haunt you, shake you, throw you for a loop—and they will—you’ll feel like you’ve won the literary lottery. (more…)
A Wall of Light
By Edeet Ravel
Random House Canada. 256 pages. $36.95.
Imagine having to hold your breath every time you ride a bus or sit down at a restaurant, for fear of an explosion. Or being born in the same stinking refugee camp where your grandfather was born. If this were your life, who would expect you not to be angry, depressed or spiteful? How could you begin to live without fear and hate?
Such questions of trauma and recovery are at the heart of Edeet Ravel’s A Wall of Light, a thoughtful and heartfelt novelistic meditation on contemporary Israel’s past and present. (Click here for a PDF of this review.)
Calling Mordecai Richler (1933-2001) the greatest of all Canadian-Jewish writers does not, at first, seem like much of a compliment to him. Could a pond that small have produced a truly big fish? (pdf…)
Raymond + Hannah: A Love Story
By Stephen Marche
Harcourt. 212 pages. $14.
One of the oldest old saws about Jewish dislocation is attributed to Yehuda HaLevi, a physician and Hebrew poet who lived in medieval Spain. “My heart is in the east, and I am in the furthermost west,” he wrote, and over the centuries this line of verse has been echoed, appropriated, twisted, and alluded to by Jews in every corner of the globe to express their feelings about exile and home.
Stephen Marche’s debut novel, Raymond + Hannah, offers the latest spin on this classic plaint. (more…)