David Herman interviews Jan Gross, chronicler of Polish atrocities

By David Herman, June 22, 2012

‘I was absolutely stunned. How could antisemitism persist in Poland after the war?” Three times in our conversation, Jan Gross states how he was astonished by a revelation in the course of his work as a historian. First, by the story of how Poles had massacred the Jewish half of the population of Jedwabne, a small town in eastern Poland, in July 1941.


Witty tale of a musical Sicilian nobleman

By David Herman, June 8, 2012

A perfect hat-trick, as any football fan knows, is one goal scored with the left foot, one with the right, and a header. In 2010, Gabriel Josipovici produced a writer’s hat-trick: a book of short stories, a book of criticism and a novel, all highly acclaimed.


Vogue editor turns to fiction

By Francesca Segal, June 8, 2012

Jubilee fever is showing no signs of fading. Along with last weekend’s Big One, there are several notable anniversaries in 2012. There is even another queen celebrating: the beloved ruler of British fashion, Alexandra Shulman, has now been editor of Vogue for 20 years, during which time she has increased its readership to well over a million.


Sad history of Hackney Downs school

By Michael Stern, June 1, 2012

Poignantly, on May 1 this year, nearly 20 old boys of Hackney Downs school, or Grocers, as it was known, had a reunion lunch in an Edgware restaurant. They had enrolled in August 1947, which, as Geoffrey Alderman points out in his book, Hackney Downs 1976-1995, The Life and Death of a School (The Clove Club, £14), was one of its “Golden Years”.


Jerusalem: the graphic novel

By Keith Kahn-Harris, June 1, 2012

French-Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle draws himself with minimal detail: dots for eyes and barely any mouth. As an anonymous everyman he tries to see what others don’t in some of the most remarkable places in the world.

After his graphic books reporting from Pyongyang, Shenzhen and Burma, he has turned his attention to Jerusalem.


Susan Sontag's diaries reveal her private pain

By Rebecca Wallersteiner, June 1, 2012

As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh, the second of three volumes of Susan Sontag’s journals, edited by her son, David Rieff, begins where the first ended — in the mid 1960s.


Viennese Comedy puts Freud on the couch

By Jonathan Beckman, May 25, 2012

In Joseph Skibell’s new novel, Dr Jakob Sammelsohn, an impoverished ophthalmologist in Vienna with a non-existent sex life, falls in love with a woman he sees at the theatre. In the play’s interval, he engineers a conversation with her companion, who, it transpires, is Sigmund Freud.


Chasidic woman's flight from New York Orthodox life

By Miriam Shaviv, May 25, 2012

Unorthodox is an account of Deborah Feldman’s Chasidic upbringing in New York, her unhappiness at what she sees as her oppression, and ultimately her escape into secular society. Inevitably, the Satmar community in which Feldman grew up has responded aggressively, accusing her of mistakes, omissions and outright lies.


Children's books: butterflies, cakes and Horrid Henry's Jubilee moment

By Angela Kiverstein, May 22, 2012

Butterflies represent the souls of the dead, according to the ancient Greeks. And lepidopterous lore becomes a fascination for 12-year-old Becky in Butterfly Summer, by Anne-Marie Conway (Usborne, £5.99). Becky spends her days by the lake in the village butterfly garden, where she makes a new friend, Rosa May.


Uneven chick lit romance but Oprah Winfrey liked it

By David Herman, May 22, 2012

On Page 273, one character picks up a book, “a romance novel, one of seven she has brought. She consumes one every two days.” The Grief of Others is itself one part romance novel, two parts chick lit. It includes three affairs, two unwanted pregnancies, one runaway child, numerous dead parents and siblings, a miscarriage and a brief moment of soft-core incest. All in 370 pages.