A sampling of titles to start your summer reading
By JEWISH REVIEW
article created on: 2010-06-15T00:00:00
“Myths, Illusions and Peace, Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East” by Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Penguin Books, 2010, paperback, $17
Updated and now offered in paperback, this joint effort by two experts from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is widely considered required reading for anyone interested in Middle East affairs.
Ross and Makovsky offer a groundbreaking explanation of how we have repeatedly fallen prey to dangerous myths about the Middle East—myths with roots that reach back decades and still persist today.
Collectively, these dogmas have produced a history of misguided American thinking about the region, leading to numerous missed opportunities and the bitterness of too many failed policies.
Whether discussing “realists” on the left who link every issue in the region to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or neoconservatives who cannot fathom peace without regime change, Ross and Makovsky deconstruct the issues that keep us from a clearer understanding of the Middle East brinkmanship.
“Blooms of Darkness” by Aharon Appelfeld, Schocken Books, 2006/Hebrew, 2010/English, hardcover, $25.95
The Guardian newspaper has called Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld “one of the greatest writers of the age.”
His new book, “Blooms of Darkness,” tells a haunting and heart-breaking story of love and loss in the Holocaust.
The ghetto in which the Jews have been confined is being liquidated by the Nazis and 11-year-old Hugo is brought by his mother to the local brothel where one of the prostitutes has agreed to hide him.
Hugo sits in Mariana’s closet as she battles with the Nazi soldiers who come and go. Mariana is fiercely protective of Hugo who, as the memories of his family and friends grow dime, gains a deep affection for Mariana.
As her life spirals downward, Mariana reaches out for consolation to the adoring boy who is on the cusp of manhood.
The arrival of the Red Army sends the prostitutes fleeing, but Mariana is arrested as a Nazi collaborator.
As “Blooms of Darkness” moves toward its heart-rending conclusion, Appelfeld crafts out of the depths of unfathomable tragedy a renewal of life and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
“Dimanche and Other Stories” by Irene Nemirovsky, Vintage Books, 2010, paperback, $15
Following the recent success of the English translation of Irene Nemirovsky’s masterpiece “Suite Française” about the fall of France to the Nazis, this new volume collects 10 short stories written between 1934 and 1942, when their young French author perished as a victim of the Holocaust.
In these stories Nemirovsky explores the details of class; the tensions between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives; the manners and mannerisms of the French bourgeoisie; questions of religion and personal identity.
One reviewer said of these stories, “This collection...is everything literature should be: gripping, beautiful and thought-provoking.”
“Jew’s Harp” by Walter Hess, Pleasure Boat Studio, New York, 2010, $14
Here is a slim volume of poems that celebrate family, tradition, living through terrible and wonderful times, and memory.
The themes are love and survival. The spare voice is that of a son and grandson speaking about his father, mother, wife, children and grandchildren.
The poems speak of journeys from Hitler’s Germany, to Ecauador, to America. They sound the depths of ritual and emotion.
Hess’ poems have appeared The American Poetry Review and Mima ‘Amakim.
Here’s a sample:
It took some time
to look at all those pictures,
the black and white ones;
to hear those stories once again;
heads nodding toward
her and him;
that book of shadows
when we were kids
who knew enough
to fill in that which happened;
knew to perfection that desire,
no, the need to stay apart,
away from them;
from that which happened
endlessly to those you loved
but not to you.
“The Case of the Imaginary Imam” by Alexandra Schiller, Conscious Publishing, Portland, 2009, paperback, $20.95
In this whimsical Jewish mystery, a recently retired policeman known to have harassed members of the local Islamic Center, has been shot to death.
A waitress at The Cuppa Cubana has been arrested, she appeals to cafe patron and shamus Mordecai Maccabbee to find the actual killer.
Maccabbee does find the killer, after picking up a clue from his new girlfriend who is a member of the Islamic community.
Maccabbee ponders motives and darts about the city in his antique MG roadster, in quest of a killer and an imam—are they one and the same person?
“The Case of the Imaginary Imam” is the second story in a series featuring this self-styled detective. Each mystery is set within a different religious environment and challenges those values as the characters deal with murder in their midst.
Schiller is an Oregon native. She lives in Coquille.