Read About Romain Gary

For reasons too complicated and yet, in reality, too banal to delve into here, I’ve skipped the aforementioned literary event. Which gives me the opportunity to post a recommendation to read this fabulous new Nextbook article on an author I wish more people knew about: Romain Gary.

I discovered Gary and his work during my junior year semester in Paris, when my French literature professor assigned our class La Vie devant soi, and I’ve been an admirer ever since. After you read the Nextbook article, perhaps you’ll become one, too. (P.S.: Several of Gary’s works are available in English, including this translation of La Vie devant soi and this one of the memoir (also extremely powerful) La Promesse de l’aube.)

Children’s Books on Jewish Culture/Religion

Thanks to my friend B.J. Epstein, among whose many areas of expertise is the field of children’s literature. She recently forwarded a link to this annotated list of children’s books about Jewish culture and religion. I’m always looking for good book suggestions for the little ones in my life. Please share your own recommendations (or comparable links) in comments.

Come, Let’s Rejoice

I thought I might post today about yet another example of something I read online that has made me angry/annoyed/agitated. When you care about Israel and its security and future, it’s actually pretty difficult to go an entire day without encountering something leading to that kind of reaction, and today was no exception. I was ready to go ahead and post and vent about it.

But after reading this article in The Forward, about the impending (sort of!) 100th anniversary of everyone’s favorite Jewish song of celebration–Hava Nagilah–I’ve chosen to focus on something positive instead. Happy Birthday, Hava Nagilah And thanks for all the memories!

Creative Writing in Israel

If you have the new Poets & Writers magazine on hand (the November-December issue), please turn to page 155. You’ll see there an advertisement that caught my attention right away.

It’s an ad for “Creative Writing in Israel,” specifically, for The Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University. I’m not necessarily in the market for another graduate degree in creative writing at the moment, but especially after my not-so-good experience in the program I did attend, the idea of studying writing in Israel, in a program emphasizing “Creative texts/Jewish contexts,” is enormously appealing.

So I’ve written to the program coordinator to find out more about any conferences/short-term opportunities that might be available. And I’d love to hear from anyone who might know about other (again, short-term) writing programs in Israel. Please comment here at the blog!

Prelude to a Poem

When my great-grandfather, Kaufmann Dreifus, was living and working in a tiny German village a century ago he could not possibly have imagined the event taking place this weekend: the Bat Mitzvah ceremony of one of his great-great-grandchildren in Columbus, Ohio. (I suspect he would have found the very concept of a “Bat Mitzvah” just as alien as a mention of “Columbus, Ohio.”)

I know little about Kaufmann Dreifus since he died when his children (my grandfather and his older sister [the Bat Mitzvah girl’s great-grandmother], by a first marriage, and Grandpa’s younger brother by the second), were still quite young, and my grandfather did not speak much about him. The good thing, if there can be a good thing about Kaufmann’s early death, is that he missed the 1930s altogether.

Had he lived, Kaufmann Dreifus would have seen all three of his children (fortunately) leave Germany before the end of that decade. He would have learned of marriages in new homelands to other German-Jewish refugees, and, eventually, of grandchildren born in what was then called Palestine, in New York, and in Iowa (another place I’m not sure he ever knew about). He might have lived long enough to know that he had 17 great-grandchildren, though it’s doubtful that he would have seen the following generation–the one including the Bat Mitzvah girl–arrive and grow up.

My grandfather’s parents and their mysterious histories have already inspired a short story (forthcoming in TriQuarterly this winter). This weekend, I sense that their descendants will prove just as inspirational. This time, I think I’ll be writing a poem. I already have the title in mind. The rest will come in Columbus.