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December 10, 2009 - Image 72

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-12-10

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Arts & Entertainmen

Festival Of Books from page 71

Michael Chabon, in a series of interlinked
autobiographical essays, Manhood for
Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets
of a Husband, Father and Son (Harper),
reflects on sexuality, nostalgia, innocence,
hypocrisy, regret, love, divorce and more.
He captures small moments in all their
possibility, in his own childhood as well
as his present life. He writes of hanging
out with his grandmother as a child, the
pleasures of cooking as an adult and his
ongoing love of comic books. The author
of The Yiddish Policeman's Union and The
Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
lives in Berkeley, Calif
Louis D. Brandeis: A Life by Melvin I.
Urofsky (Pantheon) is the first full-scale
biography in 25 years of the Supreme
Court associate justice. Drawing on newly
available material and family papers, the
author documents Justice Brandeis' per-
sonal life as well as the complexities of his
legal positions, his work developing the
idea of pro bono legal work and his contri-
butions as an economist, moralist and also
a Zionist. The author is professor emeritus
of history at Virginia Commonwealth
One of America's most prominent
comedic writers, playwright/screenwriter/
novelist Paul Rudnick offers in I Shudder:
And Other Reactions to Life, Death and
New Jersey (Harper) 15 autobiographi-
cal essays that cover a variety of material,
from his early childhood in Piscataway,
N.J., to his journeys through the words of
theater and film.

In a similar vein, former war pho-
tojournalist Deborah Copaken Kogan
(Shutterbabe) has written Hell Is Other
Parents — And Other Tales of Maternal
Combustion (Voice), a romp through
the landmines of modern working par-
enthood. The author, who moved to
Manhattan to raise a family — after cov-
ering conflicts in such war-torn areas as
Afghanistan, Israel and the former Soviet
Union — finds herself at odds with the
competitive, aggressive and sometimes
woefully misguided helicopter parents in
her midst.
Seth Rogovoy, author of The Essential
Klezmer, brings his expertise in music and
Judaism to Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic,
Poet (Scribner). For the first time, he
unearths the various strands of Judaism
that appear throughout Dylan's life and
work, explaining the infiltration of Jewish
content — drawn from the Bible, Talmud
and the Kaballah — at the heart of Dylan's
In his memoir Eating (Knopf), a book
celebrating a lifetime of pleasure in cook-
ing and eating well, Jason Epstein tells
stories about some of his favorite dishes
(recipes included) and how they fit into
his own life. Epstein is the former edito-
rial director of Random House, where he
was responsible for publishing and editing

161 Show Her The Money
saw In a world where elaborate pranks

In are pulled in order to get a TV deal
(hello, Balloon Boy) and the eco-
nomic downturn has made entertain-
ment executives wary of taking any
um chances, most artists can only make
ffp their dreams a reality by being born
into show business, becoming a news
1 111...ir item (hello, Octo-Mom) or winning


American Idol.

For Mindy Raf, the
Michigan-born come-
dienne who lives
and performs in
New York City, the
answer came in join-
ing with Kickstarter,
a new online Internet
Mindy Raf
where she is being
sponsored to receive
funding directly
from the public. The buzz around
Kickstarter has been covered in


December 10 • 2009

the New York Times, on NPR and in
Entertainment Weekly, to name a
Raf has been seen as a regular
talking head on VH1's Best Week Ever
and CollegeHumor. Her creation, the
alt-chick rocker, Leibya Rogers, has
been described as "if Ani DiFranco
and the Indigo Girls had a baby, on
Check out Raf/Roger's new video,
"Empire State of Bloomberg," a remix
of "Empire State of Mind" by Alicia
Keys and Jay Z, in response to the
mayoral election, on YouTube.
Raf has until Dec. 23 to raise
$3,000 and reach her goal of press-
ing 500 records and releasing her
comedy album as alter ego Leibya
Rogers. At press time, she was two-
thirds of the way to her goal. Go to
Raf's page on Kickstarter, see her
work and pledge your financial sup-
port (minimum donation $1): www.

such authors as Norman Mailer, Vladimir
Nabokov, Gore Vidal and E.L. Doctorow.
Two juicy biographies of another kind
examine the lives of Hollywood starlets
who converted to Judaism when they
married Jewish men. The Secret Life
of Marilyn Monroe (Grand Central
Publishing) by J. Randy Taraborrelli touch-
es on Monroe's life with playwright Arthur
Miller and claims to unearth the truth
about her relationship with the Kennedys.
William J. Mann's How to Be a Movie
Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood
(Houghton Mifflin; $28) covers her mar-
riages to Jewish husbands Mike Todd
and Eddie Fisher in a bio that explains
how Taylor ignited the sexual revolution
in America, helped kick down the studio
system and practically invented the big
business of celebrity star making.

"It's there in the plaintiff undertow, the
feeling that yearning is eternal and sorrow
not very far from the moment's joy," David
Lehman writes, explaining the distinctively
Jewish character of American popular
songs written by the likes of Irving Berlin,
George Gershwin and Howard Arlen. He
might have been talking about Jewish writ-
ing, in general. In A Fine Romance: Jewish
Songwriters, American Songs (Nextbook/
Schocken), Lehman, a poet and critic,
looks at the American Songbook and the
stories behind songs like "Love Walked In,"

Film Notes

Serious Moonlight, now in theaters,

is a black comedy starring Meg
Ryan as successful atorney Louise,
who meets her husband Ian (Tim
Hutton) at their country home for
what she believes
to be a romantic
weekend. Instead,
he tells Louise he
is leaving her a
younger woman.
She reacts by tying
Ian up and refus-
ing to release him
until he agrees to
work on their mar-
riage. Moonlight
was the last screenplay completed
by actress/writer/director Adrienne
Shelly (Waitress) before her murder
in 2006.
Opening Dec. 11 is Skin, based
on the true story of Sandra Laing,
a South African girl who was born

"Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Stormy
Weather" — all written by Jews. With wit
and style, Lehman draws connections
between these songs of love and their cre-
ators' sensibilities.
In a similar vein, Geniuses of the
American Musical Theatre (Applause) by
Herbert Keyser collects biographies of 28
(at least 20 of them Jewish) of the great-
est songwriters and lyricists of Broadway
musicals, including Berlin, Gershwin,
Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and
Jerry Herman. The author once hoped for
a show business career himself but as the
child of two deaf parents, he enrolled in
medical school instead.
In Right Here on Our Stage
Tonight (University of California), veteran
entertainment journalist Gerald Nachman
tells the complete saga of the Ed Sullivan
Show, and through the voices of some 60
stars interviewed for the book, brings to life
the most diverse, multicultural and influen-
tial variety hour ever to air on TV
For fans of comedy, there is The
Second City Unscripted: Revolution
and Revelation at the World-Famous
Comedy Theater (Villard) by Chicagoan
Mike Thomas, a Who's Who of the legend-
ary comedy camp's alumni — including
Jewish performers Alan Arkin, Harold

in 1955. Laing's
parents were white
Afrikaners who were
unaware of their
black ancestry and
supported racial
segregation. They
appeared to be
white, as did their
first child. However,
Sandra and her
younger brother looked mixed race.
Sandra was forced out of white
schools and eventually out of white
society. The film follows her over 30
years. Starring as Sandra is Oscar
nominee Sophie Okonedo, 41, the
daughter of a white English-Jewish
mother and a black Nigerian father.
Okonedo identifies as Jewish. I

Arts Editor Gail Zimmerman contributed to

this column.

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