Jewish Authors and Characters

The horrific October 27 massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue (shown above) made me think of many things — including the terror the shooting targets felt, the grief of surviving families, the easy access to guns supported by Republican politicians beholden to the far-right National Rifle Association, white-supremacist Trump’s refusal over the years to strongly denounce neo-Nazis, and more.

Given what I blog about each week, I also thought about Jewish authors — and Jewish characters created by Jewish or non-Jewish authors. Characters who are depicted sympathetically and three-dimensionally, as well as characters depicted in stereotypical or even anti-Semitic ways.

Some Jewish authors focus often on Jewish themes, while other Jewish authors are more “generalist,” for lack of a better word. Some, of course, veer between the two approaches in their various novels and stories.

When one thinks of Jewish or partly Jewish authors, among the names that come to mind are Isaac Asimov, Saul Bellow, Judy Blume, Michael Chabon, E.L. Doctorow, Stanley Elkin, Nora Ephron, Nadine Gordimer, Joseph Heller, Erica Jong, Franz Kafka, Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Elsa Morante, Walter Mosley, Jodi Picoult, Marcel Proust, Mordecai Richler, Philip Roth, J.D. Salinger, and Isaac Bashevis Singer, to name just a few.

I’ve read some or a lot of each writer mentioned above, and wanted to mention several of their works with Jewish protagonists.

Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay stars two Jewish cartoonist cousins who have echoes of real-life “Superman” creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, while E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel is a novel loosely based on the 1950s case that saw Julius and Ethel Rosenberg executed for allegedly spying for the Soviet Union. Among Doctorow’s other books is his novel/memoir-hybrid World’s Fair.

One of Stanley Elkin’s novels is The Rabbi of Lud — enough said. Erica Jong’s sexually frank Fear of Flying stars Jewish journalist Isadora Wing.

Among Bernard Malamud’s novels are The Assistant and The Fixer — with the first featuring Morris Bober, an aging Jewish refugee who operates a struggling grocery store in a working-class neighborhood of Brookyn, NY; and the second focusing on Yakov Bok, a Jewish handyman unjustly imprisoned in Czarist Russia.

Elsa Morante’s most famous work is History — a tremendous novel, set in fascist Italy during the World War II era, about the struggles of a timid half-Jewish woman (Ida) and her two sons (Nino and the precocious Useppe — the latter born after Ida was raped by a German soldier).

Walter Mosley is more known as an African-American writer, but he’s half-Jewish. One of the notable supporting characters in his popular Easy Rawlins mystery series is union organizer Chaim Wenzler of A Red Death. Who reminds me of the liberal politics of a good percentage of American Jews.

Philip Roth burst into major literary celebrity with Portnoy’s Complaint — starring Alexander Portnoy, a lust-ridden Jewish guy who is quite interested in non-Jewish females and has some mother issues. Goodbye, Columbus and a number of other Roth novels also have strong Jewish themes.

Mordecai Richler’s multi-generational Solomon Gursky Was Here might be the only fictional work that includes a section starring a Jewish Eskimo! Considered by some a candidate for “The Great Canadian Novel,” the book is loosely based on the Canadian-Jewish Bronfman family of liquor renown.

I’ve read many of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short stories (none of his novels yet), and they of course wonderfully chronicle Jewish life.

Then there are non-Jewish writers with prominent Jewish characters.

For instance, George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda features the memorable Daniel (a wealthy ward who initially doesn’t know he’s Jewish), the kind/beleaguered Mirah Lapidoth (who crosses paths with Daniel), and Mirah’s visionary brother Ezra Mordecai Cohen — along with various equally memorable non-Jewish characters. It’s one of my very favorite novels.

William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice has Nathan Landau, the Jewish lover of the Catholic Sophie years after her devastating Holocaust trauma.

One character in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth is Simon Rosedale, a Jewish businessman interested in marrying Lily Bart for the social prestige she could bring him. Simon is sort of stereotypical in a way, but he does have a kinder element or two.

And among Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe cast are the Jewish characters of Rebecca (non-stereotypical) and her father Isaac of York (a rather stereotypical merchant and money-lender).

Yes, there are of course some troubling depictions of Jewish people in literature — also including the miserly villain Fagin in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and the money-lender Shylock in William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice. Also, the great Fyodor Dostoevsky has occasional bits in his novels that can be considered anti-Semitic.

Who are your favorite Jewish authors and characters? Your thoughts about them?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest weekly piece — about the upcoming November 6 election and more — is here.

80 thoughts on “Jewish Authors and Characters

  1. In Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel “The Last Tycoon” the protagonist Monroe Stahr, a Hollywood producer, is Jewish. The interesting thing about his portrayal is that the author does not emphasize his ethnicity but concentrates more on his work.

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  2. Quick notes:

    I can’t spare time to write up anything really informative regarding these two, but I hope that readers interested in this topic might consider seeking out the short stories of Isaac Babel, a Jew who rode with Cossacks during the White Revolution in Russia, and the short stories of Bruno Schulz, a Polish Jew killed in the street by an SS officer in wartime Poland.

    Also, not fiction exactly, but parables are not exactly factual even if true: “Tales of the Hasidim” by Martin Buber. Much plain and touching wisdom to be had within…

    Lastly, Osip Mandelstam– major Jewish and Russian poet of the 20th century, who also wrote some prose, my favorite piece being “The Noise of Time”, a dreamlike evocation of St. Petersburg before the revolution.

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    • Thank you, jhNY, for mentioning those four writers! You can always be counted on to name interesting
      authors and works that are not as well known as they should be, at least in the US of A. (I’ve heard of Buber, and I knew of Schulz because you mentioned him under a past blog post 🙂 ).

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  3. Dave, I was going to post this after I had read the latest novel by Liane Moriarty, “Nine Perfect Strangers,” but I started it yesterday afternoon and finished it early this morning, so I wanted to immediately comment on it. The book is amazing, at least by me, and it’s wonderful that I finally got so enthralled by a current author. I think this much better than her last book and had me hooked from the very beginning to the end. It’s written in separate chapters in the 3rd person, most notably Frances (one of the “nine”). but it has the other such characters appearing who are part of the nine strangers, and the staff and owner of the health resort that they meet up with for a ten-week “cleanse.” The first part of the novel is perhaps a send-up of the whole “mindfulness” craze that appears from current authors, but so much happens to these people that perhaps…? Who knows?

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    • Thank you, Kat Lit, for the well-described review of Liane Moriarty’s latest novel! I’m not surprised you found it great — everything I’ve read of hers is an A or A+ (though I guess I’d give her previous book an A-). The setting of the book sounds a bit reminiscent of T.C. Boyle’s novel “The Road to Wellville,” which I liked a lot.

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      • I meant to say a ten-day, not a ten-week cleanse, but she touches on so many subjects in this book from: the aforementioned wellness and health resorts; lottery winners; menopause; drug abuse; suicide; psychologic drug therapy; plastic surgery and other body issues; near-death experiences; scams; and of course the usual love/divorce/families/etc. from many different perspectives.

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        • Liane Moriarty IS great at touching on all kinds of social issues even as she offers memorable plots and memorable three-dimensional characters. She’s a masterful novelist! (I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. 🙂 )


          • She is, and I always read the acknowledgments at the end of all the books I read. She mentions that one of the first people to get a copy of the final product was Nicole Kidman, so I think we might be seeing another mini-series sometime in the not far-off future. 🙂

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              • Nice! I think I read that Nicole Kidman might have optioned Moriarty’s new novel to star in a screen version of it. (As you alluded to, Kidman has of course also appeared in the “Big Little Lies” TV series.)

                References to “Jane Eyre”?!?! Can’t wait to see them! 🙂


  4. This, of course, is one big topic, and the examples and exemplars are numerous, and would be more so, if not for that Austrian corporal and his several million roadies,.

    So I will today focus on a current favorite, Joseph Roth, former citizen (and soldier for) of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who, after the Great War, spent his nights mostly in hotel rooms and bars and his days as a reporter for German newspapers, until he and his kind were expelled or exterminated. In addition, he wrote numerous works of fiction, which are uniformly outstanding, the most famous being the novel “The Radetsky March”. Roth did not go quietly; though published in French and in France, the following was written in 1933:

    “Very few observers anywhere in the world seem to have understood what the Third Reich’s burning of books, the expulsion of Jewish writers, and all its other crazy assaults on the intellect actually mean. The technical apotheosis of the barbarians,, the terrible march of the mechanized orangutans…– all this means far more than the threatened and terrorized world seems to realize: It must be understood. Let me say it loud and clear: the European mind is capitulating.

    …Now, as the smoke of our burned books rises into the sky, we German writers of Jewish descent must acknowledge above all that we have been defeated. Let us who are fighting on the front line, under the banner of the European mind, let us fulfill the noblest duty of the defeated warrior: Let us concede our defeat.

    … It is only the feeblest dilettantes who flourish in the swastika’s shadow, in the bloody glow cast by the ash heaps in which we are consumed.

    …Many of us served in the war, many died. We have written for Germany, we have died for Germany. We have spilled our blood for Germany in two ways: the blood that runs in our veins, and the blood with which we write. We have sung Germany, the real Germany! And that is why today we are being burned by Germany!”

    The elipses are mine. The entire essay is available in What I Saw, Reports From Berlin 1920-1933″, by Joseph Roth.

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    • Thank you, jhNY, for the great and moving comment. Joseph Roth (who I have yet to read but will look for again in my local library) sounds like an incredible writer — as your excerpts show. And all the awful things he and others of Jewish descent (and non-Jewish descent) had to go through during the Nazi era… 😦

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      • Roth never even had a room of his own, carried no books with him, yet wrote with wisdom and insight in an easy familiarity with literature, managing till his death about a page of prose a day for the press, to say nothing of his fiction….like so many others brought low by barbarism at home, he was too good for his surroundings, and hardly knew it. He drank himself to death in a hotel in Paris, dying in 1939, before the Wehrmacht took France, at the age of 45.

        Note also the year in which he wrote the essay from which I took excerpts: 1933. Well before the war, well before most, even in Germany, would have come to his correct conclusion.

        I can’t recommend many authors with this statement, but anything you find with his name on it– read. He’s that good!

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        • Definitely a prescient guy to write all that in 1933. And he’s yet another writer who lived a partly agonizing life and died young. 😦

          Thanks for the eloquence, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that my local library has something penned by him.

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  5. Off-topic, yet existential:

    Trying to absorb the Sessions resignation news, figuring in my cynical way it means the end of the Russia investigation, and the beginning of Untrammeled Trump, except for some pesky House Democrats who will nearly slow him down a little from time to time.

    Over the next two years, there is absolutely no chance the Senate will do anything but crush everything the Democrats pass legislatively in the House, unless it’s something Trump wants, and no chance, without the Mueller report being passed to Congress (which the new head of the Justice Dept.–unless somehow he must recuse himself for published opinion that Mueller has already gone too far– can always decide NOT to pass along) that there will be sufficient popular upset to cause impeachment– and even if the report is made public, Trump lovers don’t care what he has done, no matter the crime, so impeachment would die in the Senate, if by some wild lucky long-shot it got that far.

    Seems to me that means we can resist where possible, but realistically, we’re in for two more years of Trump. If not four. He’s not a temporary aberration, as I was so happy to believe; he’s the President of the United States.


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    • Thank you, jhNY! You make great points. While the Democrats winning the House is better than the alternative, Trump and the Senate will still do what they want to do (with the House blocking some things it’s able to block but having virtually no chance of getting anything positive approved by the Senate). And, yes, no matter what Mueller comes up with — and I’m sure it will be some really bad stuff Trump and company did — many of Trump’s cult-like followers won’t care a bit. They’ll consider it “fake news,” or say the Democrats are worse, blah, blah, blah.

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      • Dave and jhNY, I don’t know how much I can absorb in one or two days — what with the only good news being the Dems taking back the House. But what about the Senate gaining seats of Republicans; the firing of Jeff Sessions and how that will play out in the next week or so; what will happen with the Mueller investigation; and now we have one more mass shooting today in CA. Will this never end? What can one do even in cases like this?

        OK, I’m done ranting, at least for now. One of the high points of my life the last few days that has been listening to one of the discs from Live Aid, the DVD that happened on the concert that occurred July 13, 1985. Half of it was held in Wembley and the other in Philly, which was quite interesting. Disc 2 had most of my favorite acts that day — Dire Straits who performed “Sultans of Swing,” that had a great guitarist in Mark Knopfler (if I’m spelling that correctly); Elton John, The Who, but mostly David Bowie (which was when I fell in love with his music, esp. his song :”Heroes”). but the best act of the day was Freddie Mercury and Queen. Especially his short version of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Radio Gaga,” and “We Will Rock You,” and of course, “We Are the Champions.). I learned that he was a fantastic piano player, as well as a guitarist. ” What a shame that he died so early in his career.

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        • I hear you, Kat Lit. 😦 The awful news never ends, even when there is some good news (such as the Democrats getting control of the House).

          I’ve seen snippets of Live Aid on YouTube, and it was an amazing gathering of fantastic musicians and bands. I need to look at Queen’s performance when I get a chance!

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        • Will this ever end? Yep, but who knows how? Within a very little while of Trump’s ascension to the presidency, I came up with a line which has seemed pertinent nearly every day since:

          The law is the creature of power.

          We are only a nation of laws so long as it is in the interests of the powerful that it is so. Now it’s not, so it’s not. I had spent much of my life foolishly imagining we were a nation of laws, period. The election of 2000 was my first big clue I was mistaken– but there had been earlier warnings– Iran-Contra and Reagan, for example…

          Trump does what he does because he can. And no one, so far, has done very much to curb him, much less stop him, from whatever he would do next.

          I really thought the election would show us all more clearly that Trump was an aberration, but he is not. It really was a referendum on him, and the senate shows you— in much of the country, Trump’s their guy, no matter what he does. No matter what he will do.

          I too enjoyed Live Aid 1985.

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          • “The law is the creature of power” — so true, jhNY.

            Yes, it would have been nice if the midterm elections totally repudiated Trump, but the Senate was virtually impossible to flip. Of course, the Democrats got MANY more Senate votes overall than the Republicans, but the red states have unfair/disproportionate power. Rigged. (But not rigged in the way Trump falsely says.)

            And, as you allude to, there are many Trump cultists who will never NOT follow him.


  6. Oooooh Sophie’s Choice 😦 I’m ashamed it took me so long to read it, but I’m also glad I finally did – a powerful book even if it is hard to get through at times! Very recently I just finished “We Were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter. It’s a HF novel based on her own family’s experience of struggling to survive the Nazi years. It was a page turner, believe me. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her to research and write that knowing that her very existence could have been affected if outcomes were even slightly varied!

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    • Thank you, M.B.!

      I agree — “Sophie’s Choice” is powerful but almost too heartbreaking to bear.

      “We Were the Lucky Ones” sounds really good. Books like that, about people going through horrific wartime experiences, do make one contemplate how life can hang on such a thin thread of fate.

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  7. He is not Jewish, but Pete Hamill wrote a beautiful book called “Snow In August,” The book is about a young Catholic boy who befriends a lonely, elderly Rabbi. The last paragraphs are very alive with the story of the Golum, mythical creature who comes to life. Its a lovely tale of coming together of both faiths to save each other.

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    • Thank you, Michele! It sounds like a wonderful book and relationship!

      I’ve read one Pete Hamill novel — “Forever,” about a man who will never die unless he leaves Manhattan — and, while uneven, it had a lot of very compelling moments. Hamill is a great fiction and nonfiction writer.

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  8. Wow! What a lot of references to great writers and literature packed in this post, Dave. You are amazing. I was reading ‘Fear of Flying’ while working out on an exercise bike when Patrick and I met at the YWCA decades ago. So that book holds special meaning for me and I adore Erica Jong. Philip Roth is another favorite of mine – I’ve read so many of his books, and loved his nonfiction about caring for his father – Patrimony. There are many of his works I have not read, however, and this post motivates me to check out his section in my local library.

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    • Thank you, Molly, for the comment and the very kind words. 🙂

      What a wonderful association “Fear of Flying” has for you and your husband!

      One of these days I’ll read more of Philip Roth; I’ve only gotten to “Portnoy’s Complaint” and “Goodbye, Columbus” — and I know much of his later work is deeper.

      BTW, I recalled after writing this post that there’s an excellent Jewish supporting character — the beleaguered principal — in Richard Russo’s terrific “Empire Falls” novel you recommended to me. One of the very best novels I’ve read all year.

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    Black, Jew. Both outsiders, even here.

    Because I lived in the house of my mother, the child of Eastern European immigrant Jews, and my father, the descendant of slaves stolen from Africa. Because I was reared around peoples who knew each other without having to speak the same language. Both sides of my family knew by heart the road we’d all traveled. From the Holocaust to Santa Monica; from the slave pens to Emancipation; from ghettos and hangmen; from racial stereotypes and public burnings; from humor derived through pain and homelessness over and over again—we knew each other. We understood the signs and scars and signals and the segregation, racism and hatred piled upon each other’s souls.

    ~ Walter Mosley

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    • Thank you, bebe!

      Yes, that’s double outsider-dom. Such a deep and eloquent quote from Walter Mosley. In the U.S., at least, African-Americans have had a much harder time (historically and currently) than Jewish-Americans, but Jewish people have certainly had their share of being “the other” — and neo-Nazi sympathizer Trump hasn’t helped.

      The Holocaust, of course, was such a crime against humanity that there’s little one can say anymore.

      I’m glad you recommended Mosley’s work to me; I ended up reading the first two Easy Rawlins novels, and hope to get to more of them eventually!

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      • I will write about his books later Dave.
        We lived in Overland Park, KS for 30 years then moved to TN. There was a beautiful Synigogue there in a new upscale area , shops around it.
        Just a few years ago in 2014 there was a horrible massacre by a gunman. 😥

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        • I look forward to it, bebe!

          So many gun massacres in so many places — houses of worship, schools, etc., etc. Unfortunately, we live in a country where a small minority (NRA execs, far-right politicians, awful billionaires, etc.) make or influence the laws — or lack of laws. 😦

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  10. Once again a very interesting topic! I thought I’d mention an author who is deeply beloved in Russia but little known in the West, as far as I know: Ilya Ilf (pseudonym). He was a satirical and comedic writer who teamed up with the ethnic Russian author Yevgeny Petrov (also pseudonym) to co-write a series of side-splittingly funny stories about life in the 1920s, most famously “12 Chairs.” It was a personal favorite of Stalin’s and so, instead of being arrested, Ilf and Petrov were allowed to write and publish all kinds of stuff that other authors couldn’t have gotten away with. They attributed their success in part to the melding of the “mysterious Jewish soul” with the “mysterious Russian soul” (they were not shy about among fun of themselves). Sadly, Ilf died of TB in the late 1930s. Petrov was devastated and switched from writing humor to becoming a war correspondent; he was killed in a plane crash in Sevastopol during WWII.

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    • Thank you, Elena! I appreciate you mentioning two writers I wasn’t familiar with — and who probably many commenters here weren’t familiar with. What a fascinating story (somehow getting on Stalin’s good side, etc.) and what a tragic ending for both. A VERY interesting comment.

      BTW, after you recently recommended Robert Galbraith’s (J.K. Rowling’s) crime-fiction series, I’ve now read the first three. I’m totally hooked. 🙂

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      • They’re great, aren’t they? In some ways I like them better than the Harry Potter books, which after all are children’s books.

        Speaking of HP, in one of my classes today all the students had to talk about their favorite book/author. As usual, a number of them chose Harry Potter.

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        • They are, Elena! I’m greatly looking forward to reading the fourth and latest, “Lethal White.”

          I still love the “Harry Potter” series best among Rowling’s work, but her Cormoran/Robin crime novels are closer to “HP” compelling-ness than I ever would have imagined. 🙂

          And, yes, “Harry Potter” was and still is wildly popular among students!

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  11. Dave, I’ve read many of the books that you and others have mentioned, my favorite being “The House of Mirth,” with only one Jewish character that I can recall. I’ve been meaning to read “Daniel Deronda,” because I’ve got a very good A&E (or BBC?) production of it on DVD. Sorry to be so repetitive here, but I’ll mention one of my favorite mystery series, written by Harry Kemelman featuring Rabbi Small (which I talked about last week). I’ve just ordered most of the entire series (which I’ve already read twice before) on Nook or from a website that has some older books for a fairly good price. Another very good series was written by Faye Kellerman, with the main focus on a cop (Decker) and his wife (eventually) Rina, who is an observant Jewish woman. He ends up converting to Judaism in order to marry her. Both of these mystery series taught me a lot about the religion and customs. The Rabbi books had one which was just about a couple and the bride-to-be had to convert. Hmm. shades of a couple with the last name Kushner?

    In college, one my best friends was Jewish and wanted to explore other types of worship, so one Sunday morning I took her to a Baptist Church near campus. I’d never been there myself, but I knew what to expect Of course they were having a baptism that day, so when it came time for the pastor to dunk the woman’s head in water (could it have been a baptismal font or whatever), my friend grabbed my arm and asked me out loud and what they were doing to this poor woman, I had to explain that this was OK. I think she was ready to go running up to save her, so it’s good I was with her. For some reason I think this was our last field trip to a Protestant church, Ha! 🙂

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      • Thank you, Kat Lit! I definitely have “The Chosen” on my list now; that book was also mentioned in a Facebook comment when I posted a link to this blog post there last night.

        I’ve lately been overdoing mysteries and crime fiction (J.K. Rowling, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, Walter Mosley, and currently reading Tom MacDonald’s “The Charlestown Connection”). But I’ll eventually try one of the Rabbi Small books. 🙂

        Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump — a couple of moral lowlifes. 😦

        I highly recommend “Daniel Deronda.” Long — about 700 pages or so — but an emotional powerhouse of a novel that I kept rereading passages of for weeks after I finished it.

        That is a fabulous Baptist Church anecdote! Well and funnily told!


        • I just put “Daniel Deronda” on my list of books to buy the next time I get a gift card from B&N — I didn’t get one last month because I didn’t put enough on my credit card to get the number of credit points. This is actually a good thing, but perhaps I’ll have enough next month. 🙂

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          • Nice to get those B&N gift cards, Kat Lit!

            “Daniel Deronda” was recommended to me by “lily,” who regularly posted on this blog in the months after I started it (in 2014). I miss her excellent comments.


            • I’m not sure if you or anyone here reads print magazines any longer, but Bill likes to read “Time” and has a subscription to it. The one that arrived yesterday had a mailing label over the caption for the cover, but it intrigued me, so I asked him about it. It turns out it was a stylized version of “The Tree of Life,” which had red and white stripes on the trunk and a star in the sky. It was of course a tribute to the 13 Jewish people killed in a synagogue last week. I looked up the Tree up on the internet and find it’s a symbol for both Christianity, but mostly Judaism. I’ve read a lot about religion through the years, but somehow I didn’t recognize it and was getting somewhat confused by the symbolism. But even with that little bit of explanation I need to have a better understanding of what it all means. Bill said he’d ask his son-in-law who lives up here and is Jewish (but out of town), then after we go to vote I can spend more time on it.

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              • I no longer read print magazines, but still get the print New York Times every day. 🙂

                That sounds like a very interesting Time cover. I also know little about “The Tree of Life” and its symbolism, religious or otherwise.

                Magazines of course have to be especially cover-conscious these days with their circulation dwindling and so much online competition (including countless people getting news and other content on their phones).


              • I had a lot of strange friends in college. One of them in Texas was very dramatic and after reading a book would assume the personality of one of the main characters. The only two I actually remember were after reading “The House of Brede,” by Rumer Goddard, she went about as a nun for days with her hands in prayer mode, saying to all of us “Bless You;” then she read “The Godfather,” and was going around saying that she’d put a contract out on whoever we wanted to. She’s also the one who brought me a scorpion in a ventilated Mason jar from her home near Austin. We named him Herman, but he didn’t last long. 🙂

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  12. Wonderful list. I have read many but certainly not all. One of my very favorite authors is Pulitzer Prize winner, Herman Wouk. Among his books are The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance and Marjorie Morningstar. The later was my favorite because I read it as a young girl, and it was very romantic! Herman Wouk is 103 years old now.

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    • Thank you, Sharon! Great mention of Herman Wouk!

      Somehow I’ve never read him. 😦 I’ll try to rectify that soon with “Marjorie Morningstar” or one of the three other books you mentioned — depending on what’s at the Montclair library. 🙂

      Amazing that Wouk is still alive at 103! And I see on Wikipedia that he wrote a book as recently as 2015, when he was 100. Wow!

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  13. Harzog by Saul Bellow, I read in universities gifted to me from an Iranian Scholar, I was taken aback never expected a person from Iran to hand over this fantastic novel by celebrated Jewish Author. I read it over and over again. It remains a treasured gift.
    I read Asimov’s science fiction, though not a fan of science I read it and prided on reading the first and last science fiction!

    Kafka’s Metamorphosis and letter to father again my fav reflecting on post war realities and existentialism.

    Nadine Gordimer’s post apartheid works always facinated me, My son’s story and ultimate safari remains my fav!!

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    • Thank you, Tanya!

      That’s an excellent Saul Bellow novel (one of only two of his I’ve read, along with “Seize the Day”). Great memory of the Iranian scholar’s gift!

      I don’t read a lot of science-fiction, either, though I usually like it when I do. 🙂 Isaac Asimov was a terrific writer, and I was lucky to meet him a number of years ago at a press conference announcing a science column he was writing for newspapers.

      Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” is an amazing work, and the one Nadine Gordimer novel I read — “My Son’s Story” — was very compelling. She was also such a great friend to Nelson Mandela.


  14. I love everything that I’ve ever tried by Nora Ephron, beginning with the novel “Heartburn,” which I remember reading in just one sitting on a lovely afternoon. I’ve also enjoyed some movies for which she wrote the screenplays. Many of her female characters are very strong, and she seemed to portray this quality in her own personality.

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  15. Probably one of the most “Jewish” of novels is Leon Uris’ ‘Exodus’, about the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. I have never read that novel but I know that it received a tremendous amount of attention, especially after the subsequent film version was made in 1960. I guess if Leon Uris had not done it first James Michener probably would have taken a stab at it.

    Possibly as a way to atone for his character of Fagin in ‘Oliver Twist’, Charles Dickens included the character of Mr. Riah in his last completed novel, ‘Our Mutual Friend’. Mr. Riah handles the money-lending business of the very miserly and non-Jewish Mr. Fledgeby. Mr. Riah is very kindly and generous, offering shelter for two of the young female characters in the novel, Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren, when they have nowhere else to go.

    Most of my encounters with Jewish characters in fiction has come to me through movies. There’s Sidney Lumet’s great mid-60’s film ‘The Pawnbroker’ with one of Rod Steiger’s most powerful and least hammish performances as a very bitter, guilt-ridden Jew who, among other things, feels guilty for having survived the Holocaust when so many others perished, including his wife and children. It is also based on a novel by Edward James Wallant.

    Then there are the films of the Coen Brothers, famous for ‘Fargo’, ‘Raising Arizona’, ‘Big Lebowski’ etc. The most Jewish of their films is ‘A Serious Man’ about a math professor who is a modern-day (1967) Job, suffering for the sins of his father, all in a black humorous way.

    Of course, there are all the works that you mentioned, some of which are the first that occur to me as well. The above mentioned works are just a few that most others might not mention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, bobess48, for the wide-ranging comment!

      Great mention of “Exodus,” which I also haven’t read.

      Nice that Dickens atoned for his Fagin depiction with Mr. Riah in “Our Mutual Friend.” And I recall reading that Dickens somewhat toned down his portrayal of Fagin in a later edition of “Oliver Twist.” I’ve read most of Dickens’ novels (not “Our Mutual Friend”), and he didn’t strike me as that anti-Semitic for his time and place.

      Finally, yes, many memorable Jewish protagonists in movies. Glad you described some of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Myron Kaufmann’s “Remember Me to God” (which research tells me was released in 1968) was a book that had a lasting impression on me as I remember it vividly to this day. I must have read it sometime in the 1970s. Unfortunately, it seems largely forgotten these days, but I found it a great read about a young Jewish Harvard student whose struggle with who he was included considering marrying outside his faith and even converting. While research shows me that the book had mixed reviews, Richard Amsterdam and his family and friends have stayed with me all these years. On the other hand (as Tevye would say), psychological studies are the kind of books I like to write and therefore this would appeal to me. Since I’ve mentioned Tevye, I have to include Sholom Aleichem (pen name of the creator of the character) and in particular his story “Tevye’s Daughters,” the work on which is based one of the greatest of all musicals, “Fiddler on the Roof.” “Tevye’s Daughters” was adapted for stage as a play preceding the musical, and it was a great piece of theater in its own right.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Susan!

      I’ve unfortunately never read Myron Kaufmann; it’s a shame he’s not better known these days. I confess that I hadn’t heard of him until reading your comment. I appreciate your research — and the excellent description of “Remember Me to God.”

      I also haven’t read Sholom Aleichem, but have seen the iconic “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway (a long time ago).


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