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Nov. 9th, 2017

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Book review: Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali

"Seventy-four years ago, nine years before the publication of The Second Sex and 20 years before The Feminine Mystique, a male Turkish communist novelist created a fictional feminist character who is the heroine of a love story that suggests an egalitarian heterosexual courtship can be based on honesty, candor, and mutual respect.

"Three quarters of a century after it was written Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali feels both dated and timeless; dated because strong, independent women are no longer a rarity and contemporary gender roles are more fluid, and timeless as the ideal of a love without ulterior motives, the theme of missed opportunities, and the psychology of the principle characters—all of which are conveyed in crisp contemporary English by translators Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe." -- From my review of Madonna in a Fur Coat in New York Journal of Books 

Madonna in a Fur Coat book cover

Crossposted from Dreamwidth where my user name is the same as it is here.

Nov. 7th, 2017

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Book review: Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss

forestdarkbookcover"In writing her way out of a personal trial Krauss has expanded her range." -- from my review of Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss in New York Journal of Books Crossposted from Dreamwidth where my user name is the same as it is here.

Oct. 26th, 2017

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Book Review: Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander

dinneratthecenteroftheearthbookcover

"In the book’s acknowledgements Englander thanks his editor for extracting the text of the novel from a much longer manuscript. The salvage operation feels uneven as a work of literature, but its ideas are worth engaging." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books

Crossposted from Dreamwidth where my user name is the same as it is here.
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Book Review: An Egyptian Novel by Orly Castel-Bloom

anegyptiannovelbookcover

"A recurring theme is how and to what extent characters recover from setbacks, displacement, and disappointments. Tel-Aviv, particularly north Tel-Aviv (an established affluent neighborhood in the later chapters/stories but new construction in the early ones) where the Kastil brothers and their families live, gives the book a sense of place." -- from my review of An Egyptian Novel by Orly Castel-Bloom in New York Journal of Books Crossposted from Dreamwidth where my user name is the same as it is here.

Aug. 20th, 2017

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Book review: How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

"How to Behave in a Crowd will resonate with readers who grew up in large intellectual families, but it should also appeal to fiction readers interested not only in families but in learning how to find fulfillment by balancing the life of the mind with life among others in the world outside oneself." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books 

There is so much more I could have said about this book, but revealing spoilers would diminish the pleasure I hope readers will find unraveling its details on their own.






Crossposted from Dreamwidth where my user name is the same as it is here.

Jul. 11th, 2017

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Book Review: Moving Kings by Joshua Cohen

"Though Moving Kings is considerably shorter and more accessible—with less erudite but nonetheless stimulating vocabulary, similes, and fewer stream of consciousness run-on sentences—than Cohen’s previous novel Book of Numbers (also reviewed on NYJB) it, too, skillfully weaves descriptive character portraits and plot lines into a novel of ideas that addresses issues as diverse as capitalism, gentrification, army veterans, the IDF’s conduct in the West Bank, and Jewish identity with sharp sardonic humor." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books



movingkingsbookcover

Also see Lit Hub's interview with Cohen about the novel Crossposted from Dreamwidth where my user name is the same as it is here.

Jun. 6th, 2017

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Book review: The Journal of Albion Midnight by Kenneth Patchen

“like a sonnet whose beautiful lines are undermined by its flawed argument.” -- from my review of The Journal of Albion Midnight in New York Journal of Books






Crossposted from Dreamwidth where my user name is the same as it is here.

Apr. 5th, 2017

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2 book reviews: God's Ear by Rhoda Lerman & Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi




 

Lerman’s sense of humor has been compared to that of Philip Roth (who is three years her senior), but in God’s Ear the humor also employs the traditional Jewish irony and Eastern European Jewish folklore of Isaac Bashevis Singer, especially his short stories. Most of Lerman’s Hasidic folktales in God’s Ear are too long to quote, but the following paragraph gives a taste of her wit:

“Totte, you hear about the old Jew who walked into the SS recruiting office before the war? He comes in half-blind, crippled, palsied. He goes up to the Nazi recruiter and says, ‘I just came in to tell you, on me you shouldn’t count.’” -- from my review of God's Ear by Rhoda Lerman in New York Journal of Books


Throughout the book one can’t help admiring Assadi’s handsome prose, such as this excerpt from a page long paragraph:

“Sometimes I cannot locate any one night as if my life in New York were but a flood of nights. An eternal room of empty wine bottles, ashtrays overflowing, the maze of screeching trains, Laura at the window, Dylan and his parties, filled with fur and cocaine and moderate celebrity, and the cab rides home, the drunken swipes of credit cards with fifteen-dollar balances behind drivers whose faces I never remembered come morning, dinners with Laura alone, Thai food, not finishing our plates, ordering more to drink, someone at the piano, someone holding the guitar, strumming chords, singing songs, concerts in the beginning, neon flashing, rich acquaintances in Soho lofts, next stop Williamsburgh, living in the dark, living in the night, making it through the day only to afford the night.” -- from my review of Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi in New York Journal of Books 

Crossposted from Dreamwidth where my user name is the same as it is here.

Mar. 1st, 2017

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Two book reviews: A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman & Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen




"At first glance Israeli novelist David Grossman’s new novel, A Horse Walks into a Bar, which as the title suggests recounts a stand-up comedian’s performance one evening at a night club in the coastal city Netanya, appears to be a complete change in tone and direction from his previous two fiction books To the End of the Land and Falling Out of Time (the latter reviewed on NYJB), emotionally heavy works that either indirectly or directly deal with parental grief.

"But initial appearances can be deceiving, and though the new novel is seasoned with jokes it is a serious work that addresses emotional pain as a source of all art, even a genre as coarse and vulgar as stand-up comedy." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books

"Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s (One Night, Markovitch) second novel Waking Lions starts as a moral drama in its first 14 chapters and becomes a suspenseful crime thriller in its final 11. Its strength lies in its third person narration’s shifting perspectives that develop its characters’ backstories and dramatic situations in the first part and its page turning pacing in the second part, in which the novel’s unanswered questions are resolved." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books

Feb. 9th, 2017

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Book review: The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld

"With its universal themes of healing, recovery, creativity, and finding one’s vocation The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping should engage the wide readership Appelfeld’s prose deserves. Readers may want to buy extra copies and donate them to VA hospitals." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books.

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