Books

The Jew who’s black, white and blues

By Michael Knipe, August 20, 2009

Really the Blues
By Mezz Mezzrow & Bernard Wolfe
Souvenir Press, £12

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Farrago
By Jim Godbolt
Hampstead Press, £19.95

Mezz Mezzrow’s notoriety as an opium addict and a dealer in marijuana has overshadowed his reputation as a jazz clarinettist and the leader, in 1937, of the first mixed-race band to perform on Broadway.

More..

Review: Moral Clarity

By David Conway, August 20, 2009

By Susan Neiman
The Bodley Head, £20

In Susan Neiman’s lexicon, idealism is “the belief that the world can be improved by means of ideals expressing states of reality that are better than the ones we currently experience”.

She seeks to reinstate it among the left after so many withdrew from active engagement for a protracted, post-modern sulk following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their reasoning seemingly went: if that’s where political idealism leads, better stay at home reading Derrida or watching the world go to hell in a handcart on TV than try improving it.

More..

Review: The Blue Notebook

By Madeleine Kingsley, August 13, 2009

By James Levine
Weidenfeld & Nicolson £12.99

Reading The Blue Notebook, James Levine’s fictionalised diary of a Mumbai child prostitute will seize your heart. Just 15, Batuk has already spent six years on the infamous “street of cages” — “making sweet-cake” as she euphemistically records, with 10 punters, or “bakers”, a day.

More..

Uplifted by a pessimist

By Francesca Segal, August 13, 2009

Ariel Leve is a pessimist. She’s a hypochondriac, an Olympic-league worrier, and expends a considerable amount of energy and intellection on figuring out how, precisely, it’s all going to go wrong.

She is also very funny. Eeyore meets Woody Allen. Or, as Joan Rivers described her, “the love child of David Sedaris and Fran Leibowitz”. But then you probably know that, having read her Big Bagel columns a couple of years or so ago in this very newspaper, and no doubt her Cassandra columns too, much beloved in the Sunday Times.

More..

Book Review: The Escape

By Adam Thirlwel, August 13, 2009

The Escape
By Adam Thirlwell
Jonathan Cape £16.99
reviewed by David Herman

Raphael Haffner, the hero of Adam Thirlwell’s new novel, has come to central Europe to reclaim a villa which used to belong to his wife’s family but was confiscated, first by the Nazis and then by the communists. So why is he hiding in a wardrobe watching a young woman make love to her boyfriend?

More..

Rhymes and reasons for reading

By Michael Horovitz, August 6, 2009

The socio-political changes of the past half-century have been both catalysed and reflected by ever-increasing quantities of poets and poetries on multifarious stages and pages. And many of the most audacious and influential of these diverse poetic voices have been Jewish ones, notably that of Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997). Two new selections of Ginsberg’s poetry have just appeared: Allen Ginsberg: Poems, selected by Mark Ford (Faber & Faber, £5.99), and Allen Ginsberg: Howl, Kaddish & Other Poems (Penguin Modern Classics, £7.99).

More..

Sketches of a master

By Philip Vann, July 30, 2009

The Art and Life of Josef herman
By Monica Bohm-Duchen
Lund Humphries, £35

Josef Herman Remembered
Nini Herman (Ed)
Quartet, £15

More..

Rich cream from Jersey

By Madeleine Kingsley, July 30, 2009

It is said that evil prevails when good men do nothing. For good men, also read good women, for in Libby Cone’s novel of wartime Jersey, War on the Margins (Duckworth, £12.99), it’s the covert petticoat brigade who most rile the occupying Nazis.

More..

Review: Ten Days That Changed The Nation

By Julia Neuberger, July 30, 2009

By Stephen Pollard
Simon & Schuster, £10.99

Reading Ten days that Changed the Nation by the editor of this august journal reminded me of when he and I were panellists on Radio 4’s Any Questions a couple of summers ago. Just as I argued then, I read this book saying: “But you’ve forgotten…” “It’s more complex than you suggest…” “Life is rarely so black and white”. This is a hard-hitting polemic, questioning the liberal status quo as Pollard sees it, and cries out to be challenged, which is a stimulating and enjoyable experience.

More..

Why chick lit is actually chicken-soup lit

By Brigit Grant, July 23, 2009

Candace Bushnell is not Jewish. If she were, the plotlines of Sex and The City would have been very different. For one thing Carrie Bradshaw would have had a mother who hated Mr Big on sight. There would also have been arguments about Carrie’s size-zero figure (“eat something already, there’s nothing of you”) and the absence of sensible shoes in her wardrobe.

More..