Mining Moment Magazine

The November-December issue Moment magazine (“The Book Issue”) arrived last week, and it contains some terrific content. Here’s a quick guide to some highlights:

1) A profile of comedian Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz)

2) Reading recommendations (classic and contemporary Jewish books) from nine Nobel laureates. Plus: more suggestions from rabbis.

3) The top three stories submitted to the most recent Moment-Karma Short Fiction Award competition.

4) A poem by Myra Sklarew

5) And an online bonus: a book club guide to Philip Roth’s Goodbye Columbus and Other Stories.

In Praise of Ludwig Lewisohn

Several years ago I proposed a class paper-turned-essay on Ludwig Lewisohn (1882-1955) and his masterpiece, The Island Within, to editor Josh Lambert. Josh took the pitch and did a great job editing the piece (which you can still find here). So I was especially delighted to see Josh’s own excellent work on Lewisohn published on a few days ago. It seems we’re a small but devoted group, those of us who love Lewisohn and The Island Within. Join us!

From My Bookshelf: The Day My Mother Changed Her Name and Other Stories, by William D. Kaufman

Recently I had the great pleasure of reading a new release from Syracuse University Press’s “Library of Modern Jewish Literature” series: The Day My Mother Changed Her Name and Other Stories, by William D. Kaufman. As a bonus, one of the book’s two forewords is by Max Apple, whose work I’ve also discussed on this blog.

The second foreword to this unusual collection comes from Carol Montparker, to whom the book owes much. It was Montparker’s discovery of Kaufman and his stories–Kaufman attracted her attention when reading from his work to audiences at the assisted living residence where both he and Montparker’s mother were residing–that led to this publication. “I got it into my head that I must find a publisher for Bill Kaufman,” Montparker writes. And after making copies of Kaufman’s stories, researching publishers, and contacting editors on Kaufman’s behalf, Montparker struck gold with Syracuse. And in his tenth decade of life, William Kaufman published his first story collection.

Montparker believes that Kaufman’s writing is “not unlike I.B. Singer’s in its folkloric aspects, with a dash of S.J. Perelman’s ironic humor thrown in but even more charming and witty and altogether engaging.” I probably shouldn’t admit that I’ve read relatively little Singer or Perelman, but if they’re anything like Kaufman, I’ll have to remedy that soon!

Because these stories–most very brief and seemingly rooted in the author’s early twentieth-century childhood (the jacket also characterizes them as “semi-autobiographical works” and informs us that Kaufman is “the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and the Ukraine”)–are simply a pleasure to read. If you’re yearning to immerse yourself for a little while in a Yiddish-inflected America, to a world of observant Jews who send their children to cheder in the American Northeast, then you’ll find your place in these stories. And there’s a bonus: a glossary to help those of us who may have become too assimilated here in the United States to recognize every Hebrew or Yiddish word.

Most serious reviewers try to avoid words like “heartwarming,” but I can’t deny that these stories warmed my heart. They may well do the same for yours.

The State of Jewish Fiction: A Panel Discussion

I won’t be able to attend this event, but if you’re in New York City tomorrow evening and have the time and inclination you may want to stop by the Tenement Museum and sit in on a panel on “The State of Jewish Fiction.” From the Web site: “Jewish writers, including Joshua Henkin, Binnie Kirshenbaum, Ellen Feldman, and Tova Mirvis discuss faith and culture in literature today. The authors will debate the role graduate writing programs play in shaping contemporary literature.” The event is co-sponsored by JBooks and begins at 6:30 pm. Details here.

From My Bookshelf: What Happened to Anna K.? by Irina Reyn

Last week I finished reading What Happened to Anna K.?, the first novel by Irina Reyn, who immigrated to the United States as a child and whose book adds to the growing collection of excellent fiction being penned by Jewish transplants from Russia to the United States. It’s a retelling of Anna Karenina, through a distinctly Russian-Jewish immigrant lens. Highly recommended!

Late last month, Sandee Brawarsky introduced Reyn and her book, as well as another Russian-born fictionist, Sania Krasikov, whose story collection is titled One More Year. Both Reyn and Krasikov are among the “Five Under 35” whom the National Book Foundation will honor this year “as someone whose work is particularly promising and exciting and is among the best of a new generation of writers.”