Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Israeli books: Zeruya Shalev's 5th novel views family through a Freudian lens
Israeli author Zeruya Shalev's fifth novel The Remains of Love, published yesterday by Bloomsbury, departs from the first person narration of her previous fiction in favor of a third person narrator whose attention alternates between three protagonists. Ms. Shalev's novels are known for their raw emotion (I strongly recommend her previous novelThera, but only to emotionally stable readers). In my New York Journal of Books review of The Remains of Love I note that "by shifting between the characters the emotion is diffused and less intense" than Thera, though it is still "emotionally powerful," and I recommend the new novel "to readers who enjoy psychological fiction about family dynamics written in dense prose."
Of the book's three protagonists Dina most closely resembles her author, both of whom were born on kibbutzim, moved with their families to urban areas as children, and as adults married and became mothers of only children. Ms. Shalev's left-wing politics are represented by Dina's brother Avner, a human rights lawyer.
Her characters have solipsistic perspectives, but that should not reflect badly on their author. In 2004 while walking in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood after dropping her child off at kindergarten a passing bus was blown up by a suicide bomber resulting in injuries to Ms. Shalev from which it took four months to recover. After such a trauma a person of weaker character might have become politically neoconservative, but if Avner is any indication it appears Ms. Shalev stands by her progressive principles,
One aspect of Jerusalem life not reflected in her fiction is the extent to which her secular characters have become an ever smaller and isolated minority within that increasingly Orthodox city. It would not be surprising if characters in her future novels will have moved to the western suburbs such as Mivaseret Zion.
Friday, November 22, 2013
On 11/22/63 I was a 4th grader in PS 110 in Manhattan. That afternoon our lesson was interrupted by a radio broadcast over the PA system describing the shooting and eventually President Kennedy's death. Only then did the principal or asst. principal announce early dismissal. On the door of my bedroom I had a poster of the presidents and added "-1963" under the picture of President Kennedy. Three decades later I wrote JFK: Lines of Fire, a Verse Docu-drama
JFK: Lines of Fire is a sequence of dramatic documentary vignettes culled from the literature concerning the assassination of President Kennedy. . Many of these found poems are dramatic monologues in the voices of people who had information about the assassination and either failed to prevent it or lacked a context to understand such information until it was too late. These accounts share certain emotional undercurrents, the need to act balanced by a sense of resignation, the shock of recognition balanced by a callous bravado. Whether or not Oswald acted alone or was nuts, there was (is) a wider insane acceptance of violence that (through these dramatic voices) provides an emotional context to this event. In this sense the real subject of this book is our American vernacular and the ways these themes are expressed in our speech. JFK: Lines of Fire was first published by PulpBits in 2003; PulpBits went out of business in March 2007, and I am happy to make it available here.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
In my New York Journal of Books review I describe The Gorgeous Nothings as “. . . one gorgeous book . . . like attending a museum exhibition in the comfort of one’s own home.” For a comparison between Ms. Dickinson's draft of a poem and the posthumously published version see an article that appeared in a different and now defunct publication, which begins with the next paragraph.
Books: The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems
In The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems, published today by New Directions, we learn that the poem her posthumous editor published as
“I have no Life but this —
To lead it here —
Nor any Death — but lest
Dispelled from there —
“Nor tie to Earths to come —
Nor Action new —
Except through this extent —
The Realm of you —“
is based on the following first draft Ms. Dickinson wrote in pencil on the back of an envelope:
“I have no
life [to] [but] [live] [this]
[But] [To] lead
for World s
+ Nor tie to
The original had wider spaces between the words than examiner's publishing tool allows. The plus signs (+) indicate alternate words and phrases Ms. Dickinson considered as she revised her poems.
From the published versions of her poems readers would hardly guess how open her original drafts were. The published versions seem formal and of their time, while the drafts seem experimental and ahead of her time. Ms. Dickinson did not want her work published during her lifetime for fear of just such editing by other hands.
In my New York Journal of Books review I describe The Gorgeous Nothings as “. . . one gorgeous book . . . like attending a museum exhibition in the comfort of one’s own home.” It’s a book every Emily Dickinson fan and armchair literary sleuth will want to own.Emily Dickinson (left) at age 29.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Friday, September 27, 2013
Here is my New York Journal of Books review of Amos Oz's new book of short stories Between Friends. As I discuss in my examiner article, this book and his previous book of short stories reflect two distinct emotional reactions to capitalism's defeat of socialism in Israeli society and its economy.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Thursday, August 8, 2013
"David Ehrlich’s short stories, some of which describe the lives of both openly identified and closeted Israeli gay men, are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and sometimes both."
Read my review on New York Journal of Books and my additional remarks on examiner.
Who Will Die Last author David Ehrlich
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Friday, July 12, 2013
In my New York Journal of Books review I describe the novel as "a fun and funny read about the mistakes twentysomethings make when they first live independently as adults." In addition to my NYJB review also read my Examiner article about this novel.
Claudia Silver to the Rescue author Kathy Ebel
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Why We Are Truly a Nation
Why We Are Truly a Nation by William Matthews : The Poetry Foundation
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Read my review of Jacob’s Folly on New York Journal of Books. I continue my discussion of the novel's theme of assimilation in an Examiner article.
Jacob's Folly author Rebecca Miller
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
“So I finished my tea and dabbled at my dinner, and took a bath, and retired with a book whose secrets were guarded by my exhaustion, for almost immediately it lay open beside me on the duvet, and I woke after a while to turn off the light, and succumbed back into a dream that must have lasted most of the rest of the night, of swirling snow past a speeding train, a sensation of being unable to understand anything close by, of everything immediate flying past in a frenzy too fleet for me to grasp, while the trees and houses guarding the horizon stayed sharp and clear and precise to the eye, so that there were in the world only two things I was certain of: the feel of your hair beneath my palm, and the horizon, as patient and gradual and slow to pass as a thing remembered, even as it melted into distance and stillness and white.” -- Russ Rymer, Paris Twilight
My NYJB review of Paris Twilight Also see my addtional remarks in Examiner.com.
Russ Rymer, author of Paris Twilight
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Books: Fall Out by Susan Daitch - New York NY | Examiner.com
Also read my New York Journal of Books review
Monday, June 24, 2013
"What the poet perceives is what the reader gets." My New York Journal of Books review of Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 1982–2013 by Burt Kimmelman. For links to more of Mr. Kimmelman's poems see my examiner.com article.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
My review of Tara Ison's new novel Rockaway | New York Journal of Books
See my additional remarks on examiner.com
Monday, June 3, 2013
The Vida count: Gender bias in book reviewing - New York NY | Examiner.com
Women authors and reviewers continue to face gender bias.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Brooklyn: Three Jewish talks this week - New York NY | Examiner.com
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
My review of The Golem and the Jinni | New York Journal of Books. Also see additional remarks in my examiner.com article.
Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni
Monday, March 18, 2013
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Monday, February 4, 2013
"Ai's poems are not to everyone's taste. If you prefer the Rolling Stones to the Beatles, Howling Wolf to Muddy Waters, the gritty realism (including graphic violence and strong sexual content) of HBO's Sunday night original series to PBS' British dramas you'll probably enjoy Ai's poetry; if not, stay with safer, tamer, less edgy poets." Also see my NYJB review: http://goo.gl/0IjEa
Friday, February 1, 2013
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
"You can show your support for the poet by emailing the embassy in Washington D.C. as we did, however, I believe the emails go unread. You can also call the embassy and leave a message at (202) 274-1600 (press 1 four times to leave a message with the ambassador’s office)."
Monday, January 14, 2013
The Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award are considered the triple crown of American book publishing. Although I am a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle I have not read any of these books (see my previous article 2012 Books Retrospective for the 2012 books I have read and reviewed). My own book reviewing schedule leaves me little time to read books that have already been published with my eyes, but I do have time to listen to audiobooks and will keep the above list for future reference.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Anyone who thinks congressional Republicans will roll over on the debt ceiling or gun control or other pending hot-button issues hasn’t been paying attention.
But the President can use certain tools that come with his office – responsibilities enshrined in the Constitution and in his capacity as the nation’s chief law-enforcer — to achieve some of his objectives.
On the debt ceiling, for example, he might pay the nation’s creditors regardless of any vote on the debt ceiling – based on the the Fourteenth Amendment’s explicit directive (in Section 4) that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”
Or, rather than issue more debt, the President might use a loophole in a law (31 USC, Section 5112) allowing the Treasury to issue commemorative coins – minting a $1 trillion coin and then depositing it with the Fed.
Both gambits would almost certainly end up in the Supreme Court, but not before they’ve been used to pay the nation’s bills. (It’s doubtful any federal court, including the Supremes, would enjoin a President from protecting the full faith and credit of the United States).
Or consider guns. As Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday, “there are executive orders, executive action that can be taken” that don’t require congressional approval.
The President probably needs new legislation to reinstate a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons, stop the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips, and require background checks on all gun buyers.
But he has wide authority to use gun laws already on the books as the basis for regulations or executive orders strengthening gun enforcement.
There’s ample precedent. After a mass school shooting in Stockton, California, in 1989, George H.W. Bush issued an executive order, pursuant to the 1968 Gun Control Act, that banned imports of certain assault weapons unless used for sporting purposes. Years later, Bill Clinton by executive order banned imports of almost five dozen different assault weapons that had been modified to get through that “sporting purposes” exemption. President Obama could go even further.
To take another example, the National Firearms Act of 1934 gives a president broad powers to oversee gun dealers. By executive order, the President could tighten that oversight.
Under his law-enforcement authority the President could also issue executive orders improving information sharing among state and local law enforcement authorities about illegal gun purchases, tracking gun buyers’ history of mental illness, and maintaining data on gun sales for longer periods.
The Administration has already issued a regulation designed to prevent sales of semi-automatic rifles to Mexican drug cartels. It requires stores in states bordering Mexico to notify federal law enforcement officials when someone buys two or more of a particular type of high-caliber, semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine. That regulation, too, could be expanded upon.
No doubt such executive orders and regulations would be challenged in the federal courts (the regulation on semi-automatic rifles is now in a federal appeals court that’s expected to rule on its legality within the next few months).
But it’s a fair argument that when the nation is jeopardized – whether in danger of defaulting on its debts or succumbing to mass violence – a president is justified in using his authority to the fullest.
The mere threat of taking such actions – using the President’s executive authority to pay the nation’s bills or broadly interpret gun laws already on the books – could be useful in pending negotiations with congressional Republicans.
They have not shied away from using whatever means available to them to get their way. The President should not be reluctant to play hardball, either.
“Why can’t I be an empty house falling into decay, unaware of myself? Why can’t I be the sky empty or the river flowing into the sea senselessly or an empty plate or knife or fork, whatever is but does not feel itself? If I were the grass that covers the graves I could forget being human. I want it taken away. The sun is sparkling on the waters. Why should I not be the sparkle rather than the eyes that show me the difference in myself. Shine upon me, sun, so that I become lit up like a sunbeam.”
I took this last year, but in retrospect, I think it’s my strongest piece from high school.
Working on this project really made me examine my own opinions, preconceptions and prejudices about “slutty” women and women who choose to cover all of their skin alike. I used to assume that all women who wore Hijabs were being oppressed, slut-shame, and look down on and judge any woman who didn’t express her sexuality in a way that I found appropriate.
I’d like to think I’m more open now.