“The Dead Hand of the Past”: I Review “Bad Jews”

at Studio Theatre: Jaroslav Pelikan declared, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” But it can be hard to tell which one you’re actually doing.“Bad Jews,” at the Studio Theatre through December 28, takes place over a few hours in one tiny (but pricey) New York apartment. Cousins Daphna, Jonah, and Liam are reunited on the night after their grandfather’s funeral. (So big, even Abe Foxman was there!) Liam has also brought an outsider: the … [Read more...]

Musical Rosary #13: Descent of the Holy Spirit

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Kind of a stretch today, but the Holy Spirit calls us together and guides us when we act as a Christian community. Pentecost is a story of diversity within unity: the wildly varied languages which express a common call from God, like the many weird vocations by which we serve that same … [Read more...]

From “Going to the Dogs”

"That happens to many women. We young men have cares of our own, and they leave us sufficient time for pleasure, but not enough for love. The family is disintegrating. After all, there are only two possible ways in which we can shoulder responsibility. Either a man accepts the responsibility for a woman's future, and then, if he loses his job the week after, he realizes how irresponsibly he has acted. Or his sense of responsibility forbids him to make a mess of a woman's future, and if, for this … [Read more...]

Sister and Stranger: “Ida,” A Jewish Nun in a Haunted Poland

Ida, a contemporary black-and-white movie now playing at the E St Cinema & Bethesda Row Cinema, begins as the title character (Agata Trzebuchowska) is about to meet her only known relative. Ida doesn't want to meet Aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), about whom she knows nothing except that Wanda refused to take her in when she was orphaned, so she was raised in a convent. She's about to take her own vows, though, and so she musters up all her obedience and submits to spending some indefinite time … [Read more...]

From Erich Kastner, “Going to the Dogs: The Story of a Moralist”

tr. Cyrus Brooks: Rather against his will, Fabian was allowing Malmy to enlighten him on the subject of short-term loans. "The whole country, politically and economically, is falling more and more into the hands of foreigners," he maintained. "A pin prick and the whole thing will blow up. If once the money is recalled in large quantities, we shall all go broke--the banks, the municipalities, the joint-stock companies, and the Reich.""But you never put that in the paper," said Irrgang."I … [Read more...]

The Guilty Party: A Double Novel of Czech Complicity and Canadian Frivolity

Joseph Skvorecky's Two Murders in My Double Life basically does what it says on the tin. It's two intertwined stories in two different genres, one per country. There's a college satire set in Canada, full of bed-hopping and lady sleuths; and then there's a dark, sad, realistic story of the aftermath of totalitarianism, in which a Czech newspaper publishes a list of those who informed during the Communist years. Hingeing the two tales together is an emigre professor whose students get mixed up in … [Read more...]

“Hideous Strength”: I review “Degenerate Art” at the Neue Galerie

for AmCon: Leave it to the Nazis to make charity posters into advertisements for power-worship.In the late 1930s the Nazi regime created a traveling exhibition which contrasted Fuhrer-approved artworks with “degenerate” works produced by modernists, New Objectivists, and other riffraff. The exhibition was a bizarre contrast to the book-burning and art-destroying we might expect from a totalitarian regime. Instead of preventing people from seeing the art at all, the Nazis encouraged them to v … [Read more...]


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