THE BLESSING & THE CURSE: THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THEIR BOOKS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY By Adam Kirsch

Adam Kirsch’s ambitious goal in The Blessing & The Curse is to identify and analyze the best books written by Jews in the 20th Century. I’ve read 22 of the books Krisch writes about–by Kafka, Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, Hannah Arendt, Bellow, Grace Paley, and Bernard Malamud. Of course, there’s about a 100 books Krisch writes about that I haven’t read so I’ve added a dozen or more books to my Want List.

If you’re interested in excellent historical literary criticism, Adam Kirsch’s The Blessing & The Curse is first-rate. Have you read any of these books? GRADE: A

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

I Europe: The Future Disappears

The Road into the Open by Arthur Schnitzler and The Trial Franz Kafka 3

Red Cavalry Isaac Babel 15

Satan in Goray Isaac Bashevis Singer 22

The Diary of Victor Klemperer 29

The Diary of Anne Frank 38

Night Elie Wiesel 46

Survival in Auschwitz Primo Levi 54

Eichmann in Jerusalem Hannah Arendt 62

II America: At Home in Exile

The Rise of David Levinsky Abraham Cahan 73

Bread Givers Anzia Yezierska 81

Stories by Delmore Schwartz and A Walker in the City Alfred Kazin 87

The Adventures of Augie March and The Victim Saul Bellow 96

Stories Bernard Malamud 105

Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint Philip Roth 112

Stories Grace Paley 123

Stories Cynthia Ozick 129

Angels in America Tony Kushner 138

III Israel: Life in a Dream

Only Yesterday S. Y. Agnon 147

The Diary of Hannah Senesh 156

Khirbet Khizeh S. Yizhar 162

Where the Jackals Howl Amos Oz 169

See Under: Love David Grossman 179

Mr Mani A. B. Yehoshua 188

Dolly City Orly Castel-Bloom 194

Poems Yehuda Amichai 198

IV Making Judaism Modern

Three Addresses on Judaism Martin Buber 205

Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism Hermann Cohen 211

Judaism as a Civilization Mordecai Kaplan 220

Halakhic Man Joseph Soloveitchik 229

God in Search of Man Abraham Joshua Heschel 237

To Mend the World Emil Fackenheim 245

Standing Again at Sinai Judith Plaskow 253

Select Bibliography 259

Index 263

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #634: FULL DARK HOUSE By Christopher Fowler

Full Dark House (2003) is the only book I can remember encountering where the detectives both solve their first case…and their last case in the same book. Yes, there is a bit of shifting the story from the Present to the Past and back again, but Christopher Fowler manages to pull it off.

Full Dark House is the first book in The Peculiar Crimes Unit Series (aka, Bryant & May Series) which now has 19 volumes in it. The action jumps from 1940 and The Blitz to the present. Bryant and May investigate a series of murders at a London theater as the Nazi bombs wreck havoc and devastation around the city. In the present, a bomb ends the life of one of the detectives leaving the survivor to seek clues from the past to solve the case.

If you’re looking for a change-of-pace mystery that leisurely moves from red herring to red herring, Full Dark House will take you on a winding trip in two different time-lines. GRADE: B+

BAEZ SINGS DYLAN

This compilation CD from 1997 features several Bob Dylan songs that are rarely played like “Dear Landlord,” “Walls of Redwing,” and “Drifter’s Escape.” Some listeners–like me–will find some of Joan Baez’s renditions of some of these Dylan songs a little too pretty, a little to precious. For example, I struggled to listen to “I Dream I Saw St. Augustine” because of the slow pacing that seemed negate Baez’s crystalline voice. Some reviewers have complained that the recording quality is substandard. I found the sound quality varies from song to song.

If you’re a fan of Joan Baez and/or Bob Dylan, you’ll find a lot to like on Baez Sings Dylan. GRADE: B+

Tracklist

1Love Minus Zero/No Limit2:43
2It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue3:26
3You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere3:01
4It Ain’t Me Babe3:21
5I Pity The Poor Immigrant3:48
6Tears Of Rage4:22
7Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word4:28
8I Dream I Saw St. Augustine3:17
9Farewell, Angelina3:15
10Dear Landlord3:00
11One Too Many Mornings3:13
12I Shall Be Released3:57
13Boots Of Spanish Leather4:34
14Daddy, You Been On My Mind2:20
15Restless Farewell5:50
16Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright3:13
17Walls Of Red Wing3:52
18Drifter’s Escape2:56
19Walkin’ Down The Line3:23
20North Country Blues5:02

XyliMelts

Since the beginning of 2021, I found myself waking up at night with a dry mouth. At first, I thought my dry mouth was caused by our furnace running during the night because of the cold temperatures. But when milder weather arrived in March, my dry mouth problem persisted. Fortunately, I had my bi-annual dentist appoint in mid-March and I asked my dentist what I should do.

He recommended XyliMelts and gave me some free samples. I tried the XyliMelts tablets and they banished my dry mouth at night and made my mouth feel normal again. I questioned my dentist on the cause of my dry mouth problem. He said, “Dry mouth can be caused by the aging process and by medications you might be taking. Or both.”

My healthcare provider, Independent Health, “encouraged” (by saying they wouldn’t pay anymore) me to change from Invokana to JARDIANCE. My dry mouth problem started around the time I started taking JARDIANCE, but I don’t have enough evidence to prove JARDIANCE is the culprit. No matter, the XyliMelts solved my dry mouth problem. If you have a dry mouth problem like I did, XyliMelts might help you, too.

THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER [Disney+]

My favorite part (so far) of MARVEL’s six-episode series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, is a scene in a banker’s office where the Falcon (aka, Sam Wilson; played by Anthony Mackie) and his sister (played by Adepero Oduye) are turned down for a small business loan because of their low income. The Falcon, an Avenger, discovers being a super-hero does not pay very well. Racism and economic inequity proves to be systemic even in the MARVEL Universe.

I’ve only watched two episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier but I can safely say the production values are high. The fight scenes are well choreographed and eye-popping. There’s friction between the Falcon and the Winter Soldier (aka, Bucky Barnes; played by Sebastian Stan). Bucky Barnes, who was brainwashed by HYDRA into becoming a killing machine, is dealing with extreme PTSD and trying to integrate into “normal” society. But, both men are drawn into an attempt to stop a group of Super Soldiers who plan to level society into “One World.” So far, so good. Tentative GRADE: B

COMPARING THE LITERATURES: LITERARY STUDIES IN A GLOBAL AGE By David Damrosch

The 1956 edition of The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces had NO women among its 73 authors. Only in the 1976 Third Edition did the editors finally include a woman writer: Sappho–two whole pages. Even though I found David Damrosch’s Comparing the Literatures: Literary Studies in a Global Age a bit of a hodgepodge, it had its entertaining moments. I particularly liked Damrosch’s chapter on “Politics” where he devotes many pages to one of my favorite literary critics, Northrop Frye. Frye consistently promoted Canadian writers and the close reading of Literature.

Damrosch jumps around from writer to writer. Nabokov to Tolkien. Joseph Conrad to Boris Akunin. No matter. Damrosch manages to come up with interesting stories and obscure facts about writers around the world. I found Comparing the Literatures compelling and entertaining. Are you interested in World Literature? GRADE: B

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Origins 12

2 Emigrations 50

3 Politics 84

4 Theories 122

5 Languages 165

6 Literatures 207

7 Worlds 253

8 Comparisons 303

Conclusion: Rebirth of a Discipline 334

Bibliography 349

Index 375

GENIUS: ARETHA [National Geographic Channel]

Genius: Aretha consists of eight episodes that capture the life of Aretha Franklin. The series follows Franklin, played by Cynthia Erivo, from her early days in Detroit to global stardom with plenty of problems and drama to overcome along the way.

Diane was surprised to learn that Aretha Franklin gave birth to her first child at age 12. Franklin’s father was a charismatic preacher who travelled the country–and had relationships with many women other than his wife. Aretha Franklin’s father grooms young Aretha (played by Shaian Jordan) an early age to sing during his church events. But Aretha wants to be more than a gospel singer.

Cynthia Erivo delivers a terrific performance as Aretha Franklin, both acting and singing. Courtney B. Vance as Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin, captures the complexity and talent of the preacher. I really liked David Cross as record producer Jerry Wexler who saves Aretha Franklin’s career.

I have been a Aretha Franklin fan since the 1960s. When I first heard “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” I was completely blown away. Of course, Aretha Franklin produced 20 Number One hits and was the first woman to be inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If you’re a fan of Aretha Franklin, you’ll love this series! Even if you’re a casual Aretha Franklin fan, Genius: Aretha has plenty to keep you entertained. GRADE: A

Zack Snyder’s Justice League [HBO Max]

At a running time of four hours and 2 minutes, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is way too long. It has six “Parts” and an Epilogue (which is essentially a commercial for the upcoming sequel). The movie opens with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) trying to recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to join a group that he believes will be necessary to battle the upcoming invasion from Space. Aquaman turns Bruce Wayne down.

Bruce Wayne has better luck recruiting Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and The Flash (Ezra Miller). Together they face the might of an ancient threat thousands of years old. Incredible devices called “Mother Boxes” were left on Earth and hidden away. Now forces arrive to claim the Mother Boxes and conquer Earth.

Zack Snyder provides the backstory to this movie: Thousands of years ago, Darkseid and his legions of Parademons attempted to conquer Earth using the Mother Boxes. The attempt was foiled by a unified alliance of Old GodsAmazonsAtlanteans, humanity, and a Green Lantern.

After the battle, the Mother Boxes were separated and hidden in different locations, guarded by the Amazons, Atlanteans, and Humanity respectively. In the present, Superman‘s death triggers the Mother Boxes’ reactivation, attracting Steppenwolf, one of Darkseid’s servants, to Earth. Steppenwolf, who has fallen out of favor with Darkseid, aims to regain it by gathering the boxes to form “the Unity,” which would terraform Earth in the likeness of their world Apokolips.

Needless to say, the Justice League doesn’t stand much of a chance against Steppenwolf and his legions of Parademons. Even with the addition of Cyborg (Ray Fisher), the invaders have the advantage.

You can probably guess how the balance of power is changed. There are plenty of long battle scenes. Jeremy Irons is wasted as Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred. Amy Adams is wasted as Lois Lane. A lot is wasted in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. But the biggest waste might be your time. GRADE: C

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #633: RETIEF’S WAR By Keith Laumer

Keith Laumer’s Retief’s War (the third book and the first novel in the Retief series) was serialized in Worlds of If Science Fiction in 1965 with a cool wrap-around cover by Jack Gaughan. Retief’s War has been published in paperback numerous times (I picked the TIMESCAPE cover done by Rowena and the Wayne Barlowe cover on the BAEN Books editions because there’s such a contrast between them).

James Retief seeks to unite the hostile Quoppian tribes for the sake of Earth’s security and diplomacy. But first, Retief must first foil the destructive plans of the evil Groaci. In the process, Retief encounters a beautiful princess whose space yacht has crashed. Pure SF fun! GRADE: B+

RETIEF SERIES:

 1. Envoy to New Worlds (1963)
   2. Galactic Diplomat (1965)
   3. Retief’s War (1965)
   4. Retief and the Warlords (1968)
   5. Retief: Ambassador to Space (1969)
   6. Retief of the CDT (1971)
   7. Retief’s Ransom (1971)
     aka Retief and the Pangalactic Pageant of Pulchritude
   8. Retief: Emissary to the Stars (1975)
   9. Retief at Large (1978)
   10. Retief Unbound (1979)
   11. Diplomat at Arms (1982)
   12. Retief to the Rescue (1983)
   13. The Return of Retief (1984)
   14. Retief in the Ruins (1986)
   15. Reward for Retief (1989)
Retief of the Red-Tape Mountain (1962)
The Frozen Planet (1966)
Retief and the Rascals (1993)
Retief! (2001)
Gambler’s World (2009)
The Yillian Way (2009)
The Governor of Glave (2020)
Aide Memoire (2020)
Saline Solution (2020)

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #106: THE ISLAND STORY: 1962-1987, 25th Anniversary [2-CD Set]

Back in 1962 when Island Records was founded, they released “My Boy Lollipop” by Millie. That first hit brought in much needed cash that allowed the record company to sign Traffic and The Spencer Davis Group. Once Island Records established themselves as successful company, they branched out with “Caribbean” music from artists like Toots and The Maytals, Bob Marley & The Wailers, and Jimmy Cliff.

Big groups like U2 and Fairport Convention generated hits for Island records which funded more alternative groups like Eddie & The Hot Rods, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and The Buggles. Other Island hits included Joe Cocker & Jennifer’s “Up Where We Belong,” and Steve Winwood’s “Night Train.” Tom Waits, Robert Palmer, and Grace Jones all found success at Island Records.

Are you a fan of Island Records? Do you remember these songs? Any favorites? GRADE: A

TRACK LIST:

1U2With Or Without You
Producer – Brian EnoDaniel LanoisWritten-By – U2Producer – Brian EnoDaniel LanoisWritten-By – U2
4:53
2Steve WinwoodNight Train
Written-By – Will JenningsWritten-By, Producer – Steve WinwoodWritten-By – Will JenningsWritten-By, Producer – Steve Winwood
7:51
3Marianne FaithfullBroken English
Producer – Mark Miller MundyWritten-By – Raynolds*, Maverty*, Faithfull*, York*, Stannard*Producer – Mark Miller MundyWritten-By – Raynolds*, Maverty*, Faithfull*, York*, Stannard*
3:00
4Black UhuruSinse Milla
Producer – Robbie ShakespeareSly DunbarWritten-By – Michael RoseProducer – Robbie ShakespeareSly DunbarWritten-By – Michael Rose
5:08
5FreeAll Right Now
Producer – FreeWritten-By – Andy FraserPaul RodgersProducer – FreeWritten-By – Andy FraserPaul Rodgers
4:14
6Spencer Davis Group*–Keep On Running
Producer – Chris BlackwellWritten-By – Jackie EdwardsProducer – Chris BlackwellWritten-By – Jackie Edwards
2:47
7TrafficPaper Sun
Producer – Jimmy MillerWritten-By – Wood*, Mason*, Capaldi*, Winwood*Producer – Jimmy MillerWritten-By – Wood*, Mason*, Capaldi*, Winwood*
4:14
8Robert PalmerAddicted To Love
Producer – Bernard EdwardsWritten-By – Robert PalmerProducer – Bernard EdwardsWritten-By – Robert Palmer
4:04
9Grace JonesPull Up To The Bumper
Producer – Alex SadkinChris BlackwellWritten-By – Manno*, Jones*, Dunbar, Shakespeare*Producer – Alex SadkinChris BlackwellWritten-By – Manno*, Jones*, Dunbar, Shakespeare*
3:40
10Sly & RobbieBoops (Here To Go)
Producer – Bill LaswellMaterialWritten By – AikinWritten-By – Laswell*, Dunbar, Shakespeare*, Collins*Producer – Bill LaswellMaterialWritten By – AikinWritten-By – Laswell*, Dunbar, Shakespeare*, Collins*
5:00
11Gibson BrothersCuba
Written By, Producer – Daniel VangardeWritten-By – Jean KlugerWritten By, Producer – Daniel VangardeWritten-By – Jean Kluger
3:01
12Toots And The Maytals*–Funky Kingston
Producer – Chris BlackwellDave BloxhamWritten-By – F. Hibbert*Producer – Chris BlackwellDave BloxhamWritten-By – F. Hibbert*
3:31
13Desmond Dekker & The AcesThe Israelites
Written-By – Desmond DacresWritten-By, Producer – Leslie KongWritten-By – Desmond DacresWritten-By, Producer – Leslie Kong
2:46
14Millie*–My Boy Lollipop
Directed By [Accompaniment] – Ernest RanglinWritten By – J. Roberts/Morris Levy/Robert SpencerWritten-By – J. Roberts*, M. Levy*Directed By [Accompaniment] – Ernest RanglinWritten By – J. Roberts/Morris Levy/Robert SpencerWritten-By – J. Roberts*, M. Levy*
2:00
15Third WorldNow That We’ve Found Love
Executive Producer – Chris BlackwellProducer – Alex SadkinThird WorldWritten-By – Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff*Executive Producer – Chris BlackwellProducer – Alex SadkinThird WorldWritten-By – Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff*
3:57
1Bob Marley & The WailersNo Woman No Cry
Producer – Chris BlackwellSteve Smith (3)Written-By – V. Ford*Producer – Chris BlackwellSteve Smith (3)Written-By – V. Ford*
4:05
2Jim CapaldiLove Hurts
Producer – Steve Smith (3)Written-By – Boudleaux BryantProducer – Steve Smith (3)Written-By – Boudleaux Bryant
3:29
3Joe Cocker & Jennifer WarnesUp Where We Belong
Written-By – Sainte-Marie*, Nitzsche*, Jennings*Written-By – Sainte-Marie*, Nitzsche*, Jennings*
3:55
4Gwen GuthriePadlock
Written-By – T. Smith*Written-By – T. Smith*
3:53
5Jimmy CliffThe Harder They Come
Written-By, Producer – Jimmy CliffWritten-By, Producer – Jimmy Cliff
3:38
6Pete WingfieldEighteen With A Bullet
Producer – Barry HammondWritten-By, Producer – Pete WingfieldProducer – Barry HammondWritten-By, Producer – Pete Wingfield
3:29
7Fairport ConventionSi Tu Dois Partir
Producer – Joe BoydWritten-By – Bob DylanProducer – Joe BoydWritten-By – Bob Dylan
2:20
8Tom WaitsInnocent When You Dream (Bar Boom)
Written-By, Producer – Tom WaitsWritten-By, Producer – Tom Waits
4:14
9Julian CopeWord Shut Your Mouth
Producer – Ed StasiumWritten-By – Julian CopeProducer – Ed StasiumWritten-By – Julian Cope
3:05
10Will PowersAdventures In SuccessWritten-By – StingWritten-By, Producer – Lynn GoldsmithWritten-By – StingWritten-By, Producer – Lynn Goldsmith3:40
11AmazuluMontego Bay
Producer – Andy HillWritten-By – B. Bloom*, J. Barry*Producer – Andy HillWritten-By – B. Bloom*, J. Barry*
3:20
12The BugglesVideo Killed The Radio Star
Producer – The BugglesWritten-By – Woolley*, Downes*, Horn*Producer – The BugglesWritten-By – Woolley*, Downes*, Horn*
3:20
13SparksThis Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us
Producer – Muff WinwoodWritten-By – Ron Meal*Producer – Muff WinwoodWritten-By – Ron Meal*
3:04
14Eddie & The Hot Rods*–Do Anything You Wanna Do
Producer – Ed HollisWritten-By – Hollis*, Douglas*Producer – Ed HollisWritten-By – Hollis*, Douglas*
4:00
15The ChristiansForgotten Town
Producer – Laurie LathamWritten-By – Henry*Producer – Laurie LathamWritten-By – Henry*
3:59
16Frankie Goes To HollywoodRelax
Producer – Trevor HornWritten-By – H., Johnson*, M. O’Toole*, P. Gill*Producer – Trevor HornWritten-By – H., Johnson*, M. O’Toole*, P. Gill*
3:02