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Art and Torah

IN Talia Carner’s newest novel, Jerusalem Maiden, Esther Kaminsky, a young teenage girl growing up in the old world neighborhood of Meah Shearim at the turn of the last century, is gifted with a talent that, when expressed freely, goes against her community’s values. The thrust of Jerusalem Maiden becomes: Is religious devotion and expression of one’s passion irreconcilable?

To set the stage for this philosophical dilemma, Carner creates the insular world of a Jerusalem inhabited by devout, Ashkenazic Jews whose roles for men and women, and girls and boys, are prescribed; some of which are laws from the Torah, and others are the community’s attempts at controlling its adherents.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 24 May 2012 11:35 )

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Fiction portends pain, recreates home

IT is hard to know what kind of story David Grossman would have written in his newest novel, To the End of the Land, if his own son Uri wouldn’t have gotten killed in the final hours of the 2006 Lebanon War. In the novel, Grossman creates an Israeli mother, Ora, whose son Ofer has volunteered to go back into active duty at the outset of the war. She decides that if she goes away from home on a walking trip in the Galilee, she can protect her son from harm, and herself from having to answer th...
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The world to come

The world to comeWITH all the hoopla surrounding Dara Horn’s newest novel All Other Nights, I thought I would take a look back at some of her previous work, specifically, The World to Come. It is a must read. There’s a reason why everyone is excited about this doctoral candidate in Yiddish and Hebrew Literature at Harvard.  Horn is a novelist whose imagination at once inhabits its own universe while simultaneously dissecting the worlds of philosophy, history, psychology, mythology and faith. In The World ...

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 March 2011 03:11 )

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Wherever you go

IN her first novel, Wherever You Go, Joan Leegant attempts to address an aspect of Jewish contemporary life — American religious Judaism and extremism in Israel — that has not yet gotten a full literary analysis. Through separate stories of three main characters, Leegant brings a number of questions to the fore: What function does Israel play for American Jewry in 2010? How can a Jewish state attempt to be a Democratic Jewish state with all the obstacles inherent in that oxymoron? Do presc...

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 30 November 2010 09:53 )

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Class distinctions

I NEVER thought much about Bombay, India, until I read Thrity Umrigar’s most recent novel, The Space Between Us. When I was done, I couldn’t help but realize that while she infuses her book with the real Bombay, in all of its color and contrasts — the red hot chili peppers and squalid water running through the streets, the dark slums and the gleaming luxury buildings — in truth Umrigar really wants to take the reader past her native city to a mental space we all occupy, the space we put ...

Last Updated ( Friday, 12 November 2010 09:17 )

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