2011 Jewish fiction and poetry books (a list of Jewish fiction and poetry books I reviewed in the past year).
In my other gig I write book reviews for New York Journal of Books; here is a list of Jewish fiction and poetry books I reviewed in the past year in reverse chronological order:
Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz, translated by Nicolas de Lange. In my New York Journal of Books review of the book I write: “Loneliness, lethargy, depression, and vague but unmistakable feelings of anxiety pervade most of the characters and the overall mood of the book. These senses of aloneness, isolation, and unease are reminiscent of the short stories of Anton Chekhov and Sherwood Anderson. Mr. Oz’s stories almost have a sense of the uncanny yet contain no supernatural elements.”
Paper Conspiracies by Susan Daitch, takes an indirect approach to late Nineteenth Century France’s Dreyfus Affair by way of peripheral minor actors in the scandal and via cinema pioneer Georges Mèliés‘ contemporaneous dramtized documentary film L’affaire Dreyfus. The novel’s six sections alternate between 1990s New York and Paris in the 1890s, 1930s, and 1968. In my New York Journal of Books review of the novel I enthusiastically recommend the book “to fans of highbrow, erudite historical fiction. Readers who enjoy the novels of Umberto Eco, for example, will probably also enjoy those of Ms. Daitch.” I also draw an analogy between late Nineteenth Century French anti-Semitism and Twentyfirst Century American Islamophobia.
The Little Bride by Anna Solomon. In my New York Journal of Books review I describe the book as “. . . a plot-driven novel conveyed in crisp, descriptive, and thought-provoking prose via an engagingly intelligent third-person narrator. . . . an auspicious debut” and recommend it to both adult and precocious young adult readers.
Seven Days in Rio by Francis Levy is a hilarious account of a sixty-something New York Jewish mama’s boy and sex tourist’s vacation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Leeches by David Albahari, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac. In my New York Journal of Books review of Leeches I write: “David Albahari’s challenging yet engaging, cerebral, magical-realist, experimental, post-modernist novel Leeches provides a portrait of life in Belgrade, capital of an ideologically charged and xenophobic Serbia, in the months preceding the NATO bombing campaign. As elsewhere in history, Belgrade’s Jewish community is the proverbial canary in the Serbian coal mine; considering the Serbian government’s behavior toward other former Yugoslav republics and their ethnic groups, this should not be surprising.”
Young Adult Fiction:
Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner does not meet the high literary standard of the adult books listed above, but in my New York Journal of Books review I describe the book as “a tale of unconditional love; of attachment, separation, and reunion; and of trauma and healing.” It’s an engaging read that will appeal to teens, their parents, and anyone interested in the immigrant experience.
Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch, translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld. In my New York Journal of Books review of the book I describe Ms. Ravikovitch’s work as “sophisticated, intelligent, conscientious, and empathic,” and Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld’s translations as “strong and moving English poems in their own right.”
Leonard Cohen Poems and Songs (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets series). In my New York Journal of Books review I describe the small handsomely made volume as a likely gift book for fans of the Canadian singer-songwriter.
The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems 1980-2010 by Marge Piercy. In my review inNew York Journal of Books in addition to mentioning that Piercy is a political and feminist poet, I note, “The Hunger Moon, her second volume of selected poems, a rich selection from the last three decades, … includes: narrative poems about her childhood in Detroit, young adulthood in Manhattan, everyday life with her husband and cats on Cape Cod where they are year round residents, among other subjects on all of which she is a terrific storyteller; nature poems that describe the fauna and flora of the Cape; love poems, some of which attest to the strength, devotion and passion of her current marriage, while others reflect the pain of less healthy previous relationships, pain that still smarts despite her current conjugal happiness; and religious poems that are popular choices for reading out loud at Jewish life cycle events, some of which are reprinted in “additional readings” anthologies meant to supplement non-Orthodox Jewish prayer books.”
For more info: David Cooper