An informative drama about an important chapter of Zionism.

THE SYKES-WEIZMANN AGREEMENT

A DRAMA AND A HISTORY

In this debut play, Jensen dramatizes the efforts of a real-life American Zionist to bring the United States into World War I as part of a plan to secure British support for a Jewish state.

In 1903, Horace Kallen, a Princeton University senior and protégé of American philosopher William James, is committed to the cause of Zionism—the establishment of a Jewish homeland in British-held Palestine. Many immigrant Jews, including the Silesian-born Kallen, have become successful in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, but as an increasing number of impoverished Jews flee oppression in czarist Russia, public opinion in the West regarding their immigration is beginning to sour. With the help of his mentor, famed attorney Louis Brandeis, Kallen builds a network of prominent American Jews committed to the establishment of a Jewish Palestine. When World War I breaks out, an opportunity arises. Chaim Weizmann, a British chemist and Zionist, offers a proposition to Sir Mark Sykes, a British official: If the Zionists in the United States can bring America into the war on the side of the British, then the British could reward them with a Jewish state in Palestine: “We have connections to President Wilson’s closest advisors….We also have some friends in the American press,” Weizmann claims. “If the American newspapers were to sell the war to the public… President Wilson would be more inclined to enter the war.” This plan doesn’t please all Zionists, and it’s not the only secret plan that’s underway to try to secure a Jewish state, but it proves to be the best opportunity for Kallen to achieve his goal. One question remains: Will he put his adopted country at risk in order to achieve something—Israel—that hasn’t existed for millennia? Jensen seeks to dramatize the relatively obscure titular event, but the fact that it overlaps with a highly significant historical period means that he’s able to include a number of famous figures among the dramatis personae. In addition to Brandeis, readers encounter U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau Sr., British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. As a result, the author largely achieves his goal of presenting the era’s diversity of opinion regarding the potential future of the Jewish people: “Some of the anti-Zionists in the United States say that the ancient land of Israel is gone forever….They say that America is the new Zion,” Brandeis says at one point. The play’s scenes involve a large amount of exposition, and the work as a whole often seems aimed more at providing education than entertainment. However, Jensen manages to keep the play engaging. Two characters are particularly well-drawn: Kallen, who may be new to many readers, and Brandeis, who’s well-known but not often dramatized. Even if readers are familiar with the general sweep of this work’s history, many won’t know the specifics of its particular incidents—and they’ll likely be curious to see how they play out.

An informative drama about an important chapter of Zionism.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5496-5935-5

Page Count: 203

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice,...

LONG DIVISION

A novel within a novel—hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying.

Citoyen “City” Coldson is a 14-year-old wunderkind when it comes to crafting sentences. In fact, his only rival is his classmate LaVander Peeler. Although the two don’t get along, they’ve qualified to appear on the national finals of the contest "Can You Use That Word in a Sentence," and each is determined to win. Unfortunately, on the nationally televised show, City is given the word “niggardly” and, to say the least, does not provide a “correct, appropriate or dynamic usage” of the word as the rules require. LaVander similarly blows his chance with the word “chitterlings,” so both are humiliated, City the more so since his appearance is available to all on YouTube. This leads to a confrontation with his grandmother, alas for City, “the greatest whupper in the history of Mississippi whuppings.” Meanwhile, the principal at City’s school has given him a book entitled Long Division. When City begins to read this, he discovers that the main character is named City Coldson, and he’s in love with a Shalaya Crump...but this is in 1985, and the contest finals occurred in 2013. (Laymon is nothing if not contemporary.) A girl named Baize Shephard also appears in the novel City is reading, though in 2013, she has mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before City’s humiliation. Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways.

Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world.

Pub Date: June 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932841-72-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Bolden/Agate

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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