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November 25, 2010 - Image 51

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-11-25

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Arts & Entertainment

People Of The Books

A special book for that special someone on your Chanukah gift list.

Gail Zimmerman
Arts & Entertainment Editor

For the Letter Writer
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature,
Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was not only a
celebrated novelist but also a prolific corre-
spondent. In Saul Bellow: Letters (Viking:
$35), edited by Benjamin Taylor, readers
are privy to frank and intimate letters to
family members, friends, wives, lovers and
colleagues that span four generations, some
catching his recipients up on the daily stuff
of life, others philosophical meditations
on literature, politics, and the state of the
modern world.

For the Lifelong Learner
The newest entry in the Jewish Encounters
"short biographies" series published by
Schocken Books, Burnt Books: Rabbi
Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka
($25), by Rodger Kamanetz, draws on
the lives and writings of Rabbi Nachman
(1772-1810), a Chasidic master and reli-
gious mystic who used storytelling to reach
out to secular Jews, and Kafka (1883-1924),
a secular artist fascinated by Jewish mysti-
cism. Both men, who left strict instructions
at the end of their lives that their unpub-
lished works be burnt, gained prominence
with the posthumous publication of their
writing.
Published earlier this year in the series:
Yehuda Halevi ($25), by Hillel Halkin,
about one of the greatest of Hebrew poets
and a shining example of the synthesis
of religion and culture that defined the
golden age of medieval Spanish Jewry; and
Hillel: If Not Now, When ($24), by Joseph
Telushkin, a look at arguably Judaism's
greatest rabbinic sage, whose teachings,
stories and legal rulings can be found
throughout the Talmud. Telushkin finds
contemporary relevance in Hillel: "His core
teachings have to do with acting ethically
and convincing people to keep learning':
he writes. "Ritual is all well and good, but
behavior, the way we treat others, Jews and
non-Jews alike, is foremost among all his
concerns:'

For Racers for the Cure
In her memoir, Promise Me: How a Sister's
Love Launched the Global Movement to
End Breast Cancer (Crown Publishing;
$25.99), Nancy G. Brinkner writes about
the creation of Susan G. Komen for the

Cure, now 30 years old and quite possibly
the largest and most influential health
advocacy organization in the world. What
difference can one person make in the
world? "Nancy's life is the answer:' said
President Obama in 2009, upon awarding
her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For the Chic Lit Fan
In Last Night at Chateau Marmont (Atria
Books; $25.99), author Lauren Weisberger
(The Devil Wears Prada) asks the ques-
tion: What would happen if we got to live
the glamorous celebrity lifestyle we ideal-
ize from afar? In this, Weisberger's fourth
novel, young New York nutritionist Brooke
Alter, struggling to make ends meet sup-
porting her musician husband, loves to
escape into the dishy tabloid pages of Last
Night, until the day her world and the gos-
sip pages collide.

For the Cartoon Connoisseur
Ken Krimstein's cartoons have been
published in the New Yorker, Punch and
the Wall Street Journal. In Kvetch As
Kvetch Can (Clarkson Potter; $12.99), he
chronicles food, family, holidays, relation-
ships — and guilt, in a sometimes tender,
sometimes twisted take on the trials and
tribulations of the "Tribe:'

For the Observer of Human
Behavior
In The Upside of Irrationality: The
Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic
at Work and at Home (Harper; $27.99),
Duke University Professor of Psychology
and Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely, in a
follow-up to his award-winning bestseller
Predictably Irrational, once again looks at
the complex web of irrational decisions that
drive our actions. Ariely defines the unseen
forces — emotions, stress, pride, relativity,
revenge, adaptation and more — that guide
our choices and exposes the surprising
negative and positive effects irrationality
can have on our lives.

For the Broadway Baby
Before there was American Idol or America's
Got Talent, there was Stagedoor Manor, a
theater camp in the Catskills where big-
time casting directors came to find the next
generation of stars. In his book Theater
Geek (Free Press; $25), author Mickey
Rapkin details the three weeks he spent at
the camp tracking three teen performers

through the rivalries, heartbreak and
triumphs of a summer at Stagedoor.
The camp's alumni include Natalie
Portman (who's been touted as
a possible Best Actress Oscar
nominee for next month's Black
Swan), Zach Braff (Scrubs),
Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
and Lea Michele (Glee).

For the Film Buff
Sam Wasson's Fifth
Avenue, 5 a.m.: Audrey
Hepburn, Breakfast at
Tiffany's and the Dawn
of the American Woman
(Harper; $19.99) is the first-
ever complete account of the
making of Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Through interviews with key play-
ers and those involved in the film's
production, he uncovers the movie's
back story, shining a new light on the
woman behind the little black dress
and the film that made her an
icon (did you know that Marilyn
Monroe was the first choice for
Holly Golightly?).

For the Essay Aficionado
In Half Empty, David
Rakoff is back with a
series of essays that deliver
a darkly funny — and often
poignant — look at the posi-
tive side of pessimism. While
making good sport out of cultur-
al phenomena like "the tortured
Jewish love affair with pork' or the
positive psychology movement, he
argues for "defensive pessimism"
as the only approach to life: If
you only assume the worst,
you'll never be disappointed.
In a similar vein, Nora
Ephron follows up I Feel
Bad About My Neck with
further essays on aging
in I Remember Nothing:
And Other Reflections (Knopf;
$22.95). "I like writing a
bit of truth about getting
Ephron recently
told People magazine.
"There's so much Pollyanna-
ish stuff. `You have the best
sex of your life!' People who
say that should be shoe'

For the Historical
Fiction Fan
In her debut novel, Russian
Winter (Harper; $25.99),
Daphne Latoly takes readers
from modern-day Boston back to
the Soviet Union in the last days of
Stalin's regime as she relates the tale
of a Russian ballerina who defected
to the West. The narrative incorpo-
rates letters, diaries and poetry as
Latoly explores the mysterious
provenance of a set of celebrated
jewels and their connection to
Russia's turbulent history.
In the same genre,
Joseph Skibell's A Curable
Romantic (Algonquin;
$26.95) presents Dr. Jakob
Sammelsohn, part visionary/part
schlemiel, a lovelorn Candide
who, wandering through
modern history, falls in with
Sigmund Freud and some
dangerously attractive women.

For the Biography Fan
In Sarah: The Life of Sarah
Bernhardt (Yale University Press;
$25), this first new book in Yale
University's "Jewish Lives" series, Robert
Gottlieb writes the first English-
language biography of the famed
actress in decades; and it is a fas-
cinating look at the illegitimate
child of a courtesan who came to
personify the theater, and who
— after a highly checkered per-
sonal life — became a symbol of
France. Although Bernhardt was baptized
at age 12, her lifelong pride in her
Jewish heritage led to the only
quarrel she would ever have
with her beloved son, Maurice,
on the subject of Alfred Dreyfus.

For the Judaica Collector
500 Judaica:
Innovative Contemporary Ritual
Art (Sterling; $24.95), by Ray
Hemachandra and Daniel Belasco, fea-
tures the work of more than 180 makers
of Judaica in a variety of disciplines,
including metalwork, woodwork,
ceramics and needle arts. Amidst
the beautiful artwork, the words of
many of the makers explain what
creating Judaica means to them.

Books on page 53

November 25 • 2010 51

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