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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Weird Jews Pi (Weird Jews Non-Jerks)'s LiveJournal:

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Friday, April 7th, 2017
2:20 pm
2 book reviews: God's Ear by Rhoda Lerman & Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi


Lerman’s sense of humor has been compared to that of Philip Roth (who is three years her senior), but in God’s Ear the humor also employs the traditional Jewish irony and Eastern European Jewish folklore of Isaac Bashevis Singer, especially his short stories. Most of Lerman’s Hasidic folktales in God’s Ear are too long to quote, but the following paragraph gives a taste of her wit:

“Totte, you hear about the old Jew who walked into the SS recruiting office before the war? He comes in half-blind, crippled, palsied. He goes up to the Nazi recruiter and says, ‘I just came in to tell you, on me you shouldn’t count.’” -- from my review of God's Ear by Rhoda Lerman in New York Journal of Books

Throughout the book one can’t help admiring Assadi’s handsome prose, such as this excerpt from a page long paragraph:

“Sometimes I cannot locate any one night as if my life in New York were but a flood of nights. An eternal room of empty wine bottles, ashtrays overflowing, the maze of screeching trains, Laura at the window, Dylan and his parties, filled with fur and cocaine and moderate celebrity, and the cab rides home, the drunken swipes of credit cards with fifteen-dollar balances behind drivers whose faces I never remembered come morning, dinners with Laura alone, Thai food, not finishing our plates, ordering more to drink, someone at the piano, someone holding the guitar, strumming chords, singing songs, concerts in the beginning, neon flashing, rich acquaintances in Soho lofts, next stop Williamsburgh, living in the dark, living in the night, making it through the day only to afford the night.” -- from my review of Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi in New York Journal of Books 

Friday, March 3rd, 2017
3:53 pm
Two book reviews: A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman & Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

"At first glance Israeli novelist David Grossman’s new novel, A Horse Walks into a Bar, which as the title suggests recounts a stand-up comedian’s performance one evening at a night club in the coastal city Netanya, appears to be a complete change in tone and direction from his previous two fiction books To the End of the Land and Falling Out of Time (the latter reviewed on NYJB), emotionally heavy works that either indirectly or directly deal with parental grief.

"But initial appearances can be deceiving, and though the new novel is seasoned with jokes it is a serious work that addresses emotional pain as a source of all art, even a genre as coarse and vulgar as stand-up comedy." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books

"Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s (One Night, Markovitch) second novel Waking Lions starts as a moral drama in its first 14 chapters and becomes a suspenseful crime thriller in its final 11. Its strength lies in its third person narration’s shifting perspectives that develop its characters’ backstories and dramatic situations in the first part and its page turning pacing in the second part, in which the novel’s unanswered questions are resolved." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books
Thursday, February 9th, 2017
7:16 pm
Book review: The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld
"With its universal themes of healing, recovery, creativity, and finding one’s vocation The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping should engage the wide readership Appelfeld’s prose deserves. Readers may want to buy extra copies and donate them to VA hospitals." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books.
Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
3:14 pm
Israeli books: A.B. Yehoshua's The Extra features a child-free heroine


"On the surface the new novel is about feminism and the right of women to choose not to bear children. But an underlying theme is whether liberal nationalism is an oxymoron, whether the rights of the individual (the essence of liberalism) can be reconciled with the needs of the nation." -- from my New York Journal of Books review of The Extra by Abraham B. Yehoshua. For an excerpt from the novel see my examiner article.

Monday, May 30th, 2016
4:39 pm
Jewish books: in Max's Diamonds family secrets stalk its ambitious protagonist

"Max’s Diamonds, Jay Greenfield’s debut novel published last week by New York publisher Chickadee Prince Books, is a guilty pleasure, a book I enjoyed and could barely put down for its suspenseful serpentine plot despite its pedestrian and occasionally heavy-handed prose." -- From my examiner article. Also see my New York Journal of Books review, which concludes "with Max's Diamonds readers are rewarded with a fun and absorbing read whose fortuitous May publication date makes it a felicitous beach or airplane book."
Friday, March 25th, 2016
2:08 pm
Israeli books: Youval Shimoni’s experimental post-modern fiction classic A Room
In my New York Journal of Books review of Youval Shimoni's A Room I write: "A Room is strongly recommended to readers of post-modern and experimental fiction who enjoy stream of consciousness narratives and who are willing to delve deeper than a thin plot’s surface level."

See my examiner article for additional excerpts from the novel.
Tuesday, August 4th, 2015
11:51 pm
Israeli books: Ronit Matalon's autobiographic novel The Sound of Our Steps
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"A fictional and more literary tale of an Egyptian Jewish family’s diminished circumstances after immigrating to Israel is The Sound of Our Steps by Ronit Matalon, a novel published today in Dalya Bilu’s English translation by Metropolitan Books. In my New York Journal of Books review I praise it as a 'beautifully written and skillfully translated book that rewards rereading.'” -- from my examiner article Israeli Books: Ronit Matalon's autobiographic novel The Sound of Our Steps
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Thursday, July 16th, 2015
4:22 pm
Jewish books: Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers is a high tech epic


What happens when a down on his luck luddite novelist is hired to ghostwrite a memoir by a math whiz tech mogul who shares his (and the author of this novel’s) name? ...At close to 600 pages of dense prose Book of Numbers is not light reading. I close my NYJB review by recommending it to “readers as ambitious as it is.” -- from Jewish books: Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers is a high tech epic Also see my New York Journal of Books review. A challenging but fun and rewarding read!
Monday, April 27th, 2015
3:47 pm
Books: Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere by Georges Perec

What does fiction about art forgery have to do with Jewish identity?

In my New York Journal of Books review I praise Perec’s first novel as “a fully realized and mature work of fiction.” For a fuller discussion of Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere read my New York Journal of Books review

Portrait of a Man (The Condottiero) by Antonello da Messina (1475,Venice, Italy), Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
3:01 pm
Jewish books: The Empire of the Senses probes Jewish identity in Weimar Germany

"Alexis Landau’s cinematically descriptive, character-driven debut novel explores ethnic identity via an intermarried family in WWI and Weimar era Germany, i.e. before anti-Semitism became official state policy legally codifying ethnic definitions." -- from my New York Journal of Books review in which I praise the book as “handsomely written” as well as a “powerful and compelling novel.” My additional remarks and excerpts from the book appear in examiner.com.
Thursday, March 12th, 2015
7:19 pm
Israeli books: Five Selves explores five inner lives

“...recommended to readers who enjoy interior prose and psychological literary fiction.” -- from my review of Five Selves by Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein in New York Journal of Books. My additional remarks and excerpts from the book appear in examiner.com.
Friday, February 13th, 2015
7:35 pm
Israeli books: Gail Hareven's Lies, First Person is a visceral novel of ideas
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"There are books that make us feel intensely and others that make us think deeply; one that does both is Gail Hareven’s opalescent and psychologically complex eleventh novel Lies, First Person (in the original Hebrew Hashkarim Ha’aharonim Shel Hagoof which literally translates as The Body’s Last Lies), which is only the second (The Confessions of Noa Weber) of her 13 books for adults to be published in English in Dalya Bilu’s fine translation." - From my New York Journal of Books review

"Lies, First Person, Gail Hareven’s second novel to be translated into English (the eleventh of her thirteen adult books published in Hebrew), which is published today by Open Letter Books, is both an emotionally compelling narrative and a novel of ideas. Its characters find different ways of coping with the emotional aftermath of an unreported and unpunished crime, and the novel invites its readers to consider such questions as the nature of evil and the justification of vengeance and retribution." - From my examiner.com article
Thursday, November 13th, 2014
12:54 am
Jewish books: The Luminous Heart of Jonah S. by Gina Nahai
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“. . . the novel’s epic sweep, engaging prose, suspenseful plot, sense of humor, and introduction to a fascinating subculture outweigh its flaws.” - from my New York Journal of Books review. For additional remarks also see my examiner article.
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Friday, September 12th, 2014
7:03 pm
Jewish books: The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
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The Betrayers succeeds by combining thought provoking ethical dilemmas with dramatic tension in an engaging prose style and is enthusiastically recommended.” - from my New York Journal of Books review (which includes spoilers). For additional remarks, excerpts, and an exploration of the novel as a roman a clef see my examiner article.

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Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
11:30 pm
Jewish books: Stephanie Feldman's The Angel of Losses is an auspicious debut

"Stephanie Feldman’s debut novel The Angel of Losses, which was published last week by New York-based HarperCollins imprint Ecco Press, is a welcome addition to the Jewish fantasy fiction genre." --examiner.com

In my New York Journal of Books review of the novel I write, “The Angel of Losses is recommended to nerdy (in the best sense of the word) secular Jewish and philo-Semitic readers whose genre interests include the confluence of contemporary and fantasy fiction.”

sbfeldman Stephanie Feldman
Friday, July 4th, 2014
9:10 pm
Book review: In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner
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My two part review begins with the poet's bio and backstory in New York Journal of Books and continues with a discussion of his poems in examiner:

"Anglophone readers (especially those who also read Hebrew) will find both this handsome book’s bilingual presentation of Ruebner’s selected poems, and his heart wrenching backstory described by translator Rachel Tzvia Back in her informative introduction and endnotes, compelling reading."

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Saturday, June 7th, 2014
11:22 pm
Book review: A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman



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Slava Gelman, the protagonist of Boris Fishman's debut novel A Replacement Life, fabricates Holocaust narratives for elderly Russian immigrants' reparations claims applications. In my NYJB review I write, "Slava knows that to make his stories convincing he has to get the details right, and despite the leaps of faith Fishman demands he provides more than enough correct details and well crafted figurative turns of phrase to convince most readers to go along with him—and those who do will be amply rewarded by this multidimensional and handsomely written debut novel." For additional remarks about A Replacement Life see my examiner article.

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Thursday, May 8th, 2014
10:19 pm
Book review: "Suddenly, Love" Aharon Appelfeld's tale of emotional healing

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“Though not Appelfeld’s best work, Suddenly, Love despite its deceptive simplicity offers much food for thought and would be a good choice for book groups.”  —From my NYJB review. For a shorter synopsis of the novel see my examiner article.

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Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
4:11 pm
David Grossman conveys parental bereavement in Falling Out of Time


“As moving as are each of these expressions of grief the cumulative effect of Falling Out of Time‘s nearly 200 pages is even more powerful. It certainly conveys bereaved parents’ pain to readers who have not suffered that loss and may help some mourning parents work through their grief, though others may feel it reopens emotional wounds.” -- from my New York Journal of Books review of David Grossman's new multi-genre book.

Also see my examiner article.


Image David Grossman


Thursday, December 12th, 2013
12:54 am
Book review: The Remains of Life by Zureya Shalev
Read more...Collapse )From my NYJB review: “. . . readers prone to depression might consider acquiring a prescription for antidepressant medication before attempting to read The Remains of Love.” Also see my examiner article: "Israeli books: Zeruya Shalev's 5th novel views family through a Freudian lens"

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