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Pre-Shabbat Jewish Literary Links

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen


Every Friday My Machberet presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety.

  • “I didn’t set out to write a political novel, but it seems inevitable that any writing about the Middle East will elicit strong responses from people.” So notes Leah Kaminsky, whose novel The Waiting Room is set largely in Haifa, in an interview on the Lilith magazine blog.
  • “Fictionalizing my family’s [Holocaust] stories—and adding magical realism—set me free. And set my imagination on fire.” So explains Helen Maryles Shankman in a reflective, craft-centered post for Writer Unboxed.
  • J-Job alert: JewishBoston.com is hiring an Editorial Content Specialist.
  • TBR: a translation, by Steven M. Kennedy, of Bernard-Henri Lévy’s The Genius of Judaism. Coming in January 2017.
  • And last, but not least: the latest Fig Tree Books newsletter, edited by yours truly and featuring some superb pre-publication praise for Abigail Pogrebin’s My Jewish Year (coming in March 2017) and other choice information.
  • Shabbat shalom! And one quick note: I’ll be taking a bit of a break from this blog while I embark on some travels. Expect to see me back here sometime the week after next. Thank you for your patience!

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    Words of the Week

    “Can we get beyond the toxicity? That depends in large measure to what we attribute its origins. While the panoply of its causes is beyond the scope of this essay, one contributing factor reigns supreme: Many participants in the conversation have turned up the volume to camouflage an overwhelming ignorance about issues. It is no exaggeration to say that many of those who advocate ending the occupation tomorrow or continuing it forever have given much more consideration to which smartphone to purchase next than they have to the likely repercussions of the position they advocate with absolute certainty.

    Many American Jews despair about Israel’s conduct of its conflict, but know nothing about how Israel responded to the very same challenges in the 1940’s and 1950’s, even in its public school curricula. We know the names of the prime ministers we detest, but cannot name five Israeli poets or novelists and say something about what they sought to communicate to and about Israeli society. Most young American Jews are largely opposed to the occupation, yet are unaware that the Palestinians’ explicit drive to destroy Israel began before there even was an occupation.”

    Source: Daniel Gordis, “We Need to Talk About Israel” (Tablet)

    I have just purchased a copy of Gordis’s new book, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn.

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    Pre-Shabbat Jewish Literary Links

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Every Friday My Machberet presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety.

  • On “Philip Roth and his Jewish People”: commentary by A. James Rudin for Religion News Service.
  • Nice to see Christi Craig’s take on Anna Solomon’s Leaving Lucy Pear for the Great New Books website.
  • Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s writing always interests me, but I confess that finding an article of my own referenced within “Ferrante and the Freedom of the Jewish Woman Author” made me even more intrigued by this piece for the Forward‘s website.
  • Another (Jewish) take on the unmasking of Elena Ferrante: Rachel Shukert’s piece for Tablet.
  • And ICYMI: my response to numerous anti-Israelist messages in a recent Poets & Writers feature.
  • Shabbat shalom.

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    My Letter to Poets & Writers Magazine

    Here is the original, unedited full text (including paragraph breaks and a final sentence) of a letter that Poets & Writers has now posted online.

    Dear Poets & Writers:

    At the outset of “Dear President: A Message for the Next Commander in Chief From Fifty American Poets and Writers” (September/October 2016), you declared:

    It turns out something pretty great happens when you ask writers to convey, without a lot of political grandstanding, what is most important to them. The contours of some of America’s biggest issues—education, health care, gun violence, racism, immigration, and the environment among them—start to come into sharper focus, the collective discourse rises above the rhetoric of political pundits, and the pomp and circumstance of the political process falls away, so that we are left with a discussion of real problems, real concerns, and, if not solutions, then at least some honest ideas that may inspire action of real, lasting value.

    Unfortunately, among many fine contributions that may indeed meet those high ideals, your feature includes some that represent “political grandstanding” at its worst; they evoke an anti-Israelist “collective discourse” composed of the precisely the sort of distressingly familiar rhetoric that you claim the feature to be “rising above.” Far from “sharpening focus” or offering “honest ideas,” these paragraphs present what might most charitably be described as incomplete and highly arguable accounts of a longstanding conflict.

    What is inarguable, however, is that statements you chose to include—in particular, those from Ru Freeman, Emily Raboteau, and Naomi Shihab Nye—omit even the slightest sense of the matter’s complexity and history. (To its credit, a fourth statement to address this subject, Tom Spanbauer’s, at least suggests that Palestinian Arabs bear some responsibility for the ongoing difficulties.)

    That among all of the world’s nations and national groups your feature singles out for excoriation, more than once, only the planet’s sole Jewish state is distressing enough. That you’ve chosen to preface such anti-Israelist polemics with your laudatory introduction—rather than a more conventional statement clarifying that your contributors’ opinions are only their own—is profoundly disturbing to this longtime subscriber and past contributor. I expect better from Poets & Writers.

    Erika Dreifus
    New York, NY

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    Pre-Shabbat (and Pre-5777) Jewish Lit Links

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Every Friday My Machberet presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety.

  • Let’s begin with some inspirational quotations from Israeli statesman Shimon Peres, who passed away this week.
  • The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle is running a short story contest (and you don’t *have* to be from Wisconsin to enter it). No entry fee. Cash prize.
  • There’s a problematic new book for children on the market: Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf. Read Marjorie Ingall’s take over on Tablet and listen to this Book of Life podcast for the details.
  • I’m holding out for my print copy to get here, but the latest issue of the Jewish Review of Books is now online (limited free access for non-subscribers).
  • And last, but least: This week brought an extra-special edition of the Fig Tree Books newsletter, with all sorts of preview content from Abigail Pogrebin’s forthcoming My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew. The perfect way to approach the forthcoming Jewish New Year!
  • Speaking of Rosh Hashanah–let me wish you all a Shanah Tovah–as well as a Shabbat Shalom.

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    Words of the Week

    Ah, when a pro-BDS* academic reviews Jonathan Safran Foer’s new novel for a literary website! Such…interesting…historical/political perspectives can result.

    As it happens, the site posted another review of the same title on the same day—this one, by an author who actually focused on the book. Imagine that.

    (*I don’t want to link to evidence about the reviewer’s pro-boycott position, because I don’t need the nuisance of a pingback. But you don’t really need me to do it: Google is our friend, friends.)

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