Review: Footnotes in Gaza

By Ariel Kahn, December 9, 2009

By Joe Sacco
Jonathan Cape £20

Joe Sacco has built a formidable reputation as a comics journalist. His early work, Palestine, won an American Book Award and he received the 2001 Eisner best original graphic novel award for Safe Area Gorazde, about the conflict in Bosnia.

That same year, Sacco was preparing an article on Gaza for Harpers magazine with journalist Chris Hedges. This included material on events of 1956 that was cut from the published article.


The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide To The Perished City

By Ben Barkow, December 9, 2009

By Barbara Engelking & Jacek Leociak
Yale University Press £40

The devil, they say, is in the detail. This extraordinary book bears out the epithet. Its 906 pages form a vastly detailed portrait of Jews in the ghetto, struggling for survival under the radical evil of Nazi occupation. It is a book displaying deep scholarship, but also intense emotion.


Fictional non-fiction

By Peter Moss, December 9, 2009

The cult of celebrity, says Melissa Katsoulis in Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes (Constable £8.99), is nothing new, but the desire to see the worst and/or smallest parts of a star is a post-war invention. And because the unearthing of sordid details about well-known figures is such a big-money game, it is no surprise that literary hoaxers with dollar signs in their eyes have sprung up in all corners of the media.


The Wild Things were my Yiddish relatives

By Brigit Grant, December 3, 2009

Long before they know the words to the Star Spangled Banner, American children can recite the opening lines to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Not that the affection for this tale stops in the US. Every school and nursery in Britain has a well-thumbed copy, and with sales of this picture book exceeding 19 million worldwide since its publication in 1963, mischievous little Max has become a global hero for children and parents longing for adventure — albeit only in their imagination. And now Max, together with the monsters he tames in the land of wild things, are movie stars.


Vocal heroes for the people

By Stephen Pollard, December 3, 2009

Opera for everybody: The Story of English national Opera
By Susie Gilbert
Faber and Faber, £25

The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera
By Daniel Snowman
Atlantic Books, £40


Review: Israel is real

By Adam Lebor, December 3, 2009

By Rich Cohen
Jonathan Cape, £15.99

Rich Cohen clearly likes tough Jews. His first book — actually called Tough Jews — was a study of Jewish gangsters in New York in the early 20th century.

Those tough Jews were followed by more in The Avengers, which recounted the story of three Jewish partisans in Lithuania, one of them his cousin.

Like many Jewish writers, Cohen is fascinated by the tension between the careful studiousness of the People of the Book, their devotion to family and good works, and their shtarker — tough guy — darker side.


Review: Trotsky: A Biography

By David Cesarani, November 26, 2009

By Robert Service
Macmillan, £25

In 1918, Leon Trotsky was “the most famous Jew on earth”, second only to Lenin in the new Soviet government. His meteoric career fascinated those who yearned for freedom and justice, while it terrified the defenders of property and the status quo. To millions of Jews, his success was both an inspiration and a curse.


Review: The Invention of the Jewish People

By David Goldberg, November 26, 2009

By Shlomo Sand (Trans: Yael Lotan)
Verso, £18.99

Because the state of Israel has always seen itself as embattled, and because Zionism is such a contentious ideology, it is often impossible to have a reasoned debate about other aspects of Jewish culture, religion and history without contemporary Middle East geopolitics obtruding.


Review: King Dido

By David Herman, November 19, 2009

By Alexander Baron
New London Editions, £9.99

It is almost exactly 10 years since Alec Baron died. He was one of the outstanding Anglo-Jewish writers of the post-war period. The Guardian called him “the greatest British novelist of the last war” and his novel From the City from the Plough sold hundreds of thousands of copies.


Vu: The story of a Magazine That made an era

By Melanie Abrams, November 19, 2009

By Michel Frizot and Cedric de Veigy
Thames and Hudson, £40

Before television was de rigueur in the living room, it was the picture magazines that showed what was happening around the world. Vu, the subject of this new book, was one of the most popular, fascinating an estimated 450,000 readers with its incisive photographic stories and eye-catching front covers of people and events from Paris to Shanghai.