Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Tammuz 25, 5774
The journey of a New York mayor's family
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When the book Fiorello's Sister appeared in my office, the thought flashed through my mind that, yes, Fiorello La Guardia, the beloved mayor of New York City during the 1930s and '40s, known endearingly to his supporters as the "Little Flower," had had Jewish ancestry somewhere down the line. I assumed that this point was the reason why the book...
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An ethnic bent on an old, yet relevant, story
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The Jewish King Lear . It sounds like the basis for a skit on the old Sid Caesar television program of the early 1950s. Or, perhaps, the subject of one of the extended riffs my old Yiddish-speaking relatives used to perform at Bar Mitzvahs or other social gatherings, translating Shakespeare -- most often Hamlet's "To Be or Not to Be"...
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A steady hand tackles an old stalwart of a subject: New York's theater industry
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Stefan Kanfer. The name may not ring any bells, although it should, especially if you're a lover of books and magazines. That's because Kanfer, who, for 20 years, was a more than dependable staple at Time magazine, has also been turning out a steady stream of more than dependable volumes of biography, history and social criticism on a wealth of...
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A poet creates a sound -- a vision, really -- of his own making
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Louis Zukofsky has been called the most influential poet you've never heard of. Much like his fellow Objectivist, Charles Reznikoff, whom I wrote about several weeks ago, he toiled in almost complete obscurity, unknown to readers and critics alike, though during his lifetime, he and his work were beloved by many other poets. These days, however, he's been getting some...
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It's quite remarkable how a single book can take a writer's career and transform it, giving it a whole new tenor that somewhat obscures, if not obliterates, much of what came before. Take John Updike's novel Couples, for example. Literary gossip has it that at a party one night the late Norman Mailer, in his inimitable cheery manner, cornered Updike...
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