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Rushdie’s Jibberjabbering Epic

by Marty Roth   Discussed in this essay: The Golden House. by Salman Rushdie. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017, 389 pages.   WHAT IS THIS NOVEL about? What isn’t this novel — this cross between Wikipedia and Vogue —about? A patriarch, a family, a far-off country, immigration, America; globalization, gender, identity, celebrity; good and evil, truth and lies; the weight […]

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The Uncivil Servant: A Novel of Provincial Pettiness Amid War

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Blood Dark by Louis Guilloux, translated by Laura Marris. NYRB Classics, 2017, 514 pages.   LOUIS GUILLOUX’S brilliant 1935 novel, Blood Dark (Le Sang Noir), is a classic and mordant portrait of provincial life in an unnamed provincial town modeled on Guilloux’s hometown of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany. (In the photo at top, […]

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Channel Esther: BOBST, a Serial Novel, Part XVIII

by Esther Cohen To read previous installments, search “BOBST” at right.   FIVE WOMEN from the meeting walked home in the same direction. They all lived on the Lower East Side,  near one another, in crowded tenements full of immigrants, young people and old.  Many spoke Yiddish. Bella, the oldest, a married mother, spoke to Rivka gently. “I’m sure […]

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The Uncivil Servant: The Fantasy of “Fantasyland”

IS AMERICA EXCEPTIONALLY ECCENTRIC? by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, by Kurt Andersen. Random House, 2017, 462 pages.   THE FANTASYLAND that is the subject of Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland is, of course, America. And not just today’s alternative-fact America and its truth-challenged president, but America since its foundation. As Andersen writes: […]

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The Uncivil Servant: Fame and Disillusionment

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Late Fame by Arthur Schnitzler. NYRB Classics, 2017, 128 pages.    ARTHUR SCHNITZLER (1862-1931) was so central a figure in Viennese literary life in the first decades of the 20th century that the great cultural historian Peter Gay titled his book on the development of bourgeois culture between the Battle […]

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Celia Dropkin’s Scintillating Poems

Yiddish poet Celia Dropkin died at 68 on this date in 1956. Born and educated in the Russian Empire, she was active in Yiddish circles in New York as a poet and fiction writer while raising five children. Her “explicitly sexual imagery and themes,” writes Kathryn Hellerstein at the Jewish Women’s Archive, ” . . . redefined the ways modern Yiddish poetry could […]

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The Uncivil Servant: Reading to Baby Bolsheviks

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: The Fire Horse by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Mandelstam, and Daniil Kharms, translated by Eugene Ostashevsky. The New York Review’s Children’s Collection, 2017.   THE SOVIET UNION sought to turn babies into Bolshevik babies. Schools were, of course, a key element in this, as were the various youth organizations. But as in […]

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