A valuable, energetic book for anyone interested in moving beyond the narrowly constructed terms that often define debate...

The Wall, The Mount, and the Mystery of the Red Heifer

A nearly unclassifiable work of fiction that combines invented memoirs, political essays, and legal briefs into a multifaceted vision of modern-day Israel.

Public discourse today revolving around Israel tends to fracture into hopelessly binary absolutes, valorizing or demonizing the nation. Silverman’s first book unfurls the tangled cultural yarn that makes Israel such a unique state, simultaneously progressive and atavistic. The work begins as a memoir of sorts, with Janet Levin, the primary but not only narrator, reflecting on her efforts to win women the right to pray at the religiously significant Western Wall in Jerusalem, a practice traditionally prohibited by the more theologically orthodox. Her activism is framed as secular in ambition, wrenching the reins of freedom away from a single religious class, but also spiritual insofar as the goal is to preserve the right of all Jews to pray equally, to participate in Jewish identity. The remainder of the book is loosely structured around this contentious issue, allowing both those for and against women at the Western Wall to speak reasonably and articulately for their respective sides. Levin’s feminist position is countered by the conservatism of Chaim Elan, the head of the Ministry of Religious Services, and Solomon Grossman, a lawyer for the Israeli Justice Department who represents traditionalist opponents. Others, like Rabbi Dov Batev, make a case, both political and religious, for equal access to the Western Wall. In a startling turn, Farhad Ghorbani, the head of the Iranian Intelligence Services, also gets a turn at fictional narration, exploring both his nation’s enmity for Israel and the surprising possibilities for détente. Levin’s breezy, conversational style and her commentary on her personal life add some helpful levity as a counterpoint to the book’s necessary gravity: “Hello again. A lot has happened since you heard from me. On the personal front, number two agreed to a divorce. He met a tschila and fell in love. Once he had a toy to play with, he agreed to release me. If I had only known that was the stumbling block, I’d have introduced him to dozens of tschilas.” In moments like this, author Silverman manages to combine daring artistic eclecticism with sober, political meditation.

A valuable, energetic book for anyone interested in moving beyond the narrowly constructed terms that often define debate about Israel.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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