I’m on vacation this week, so this is the last post you’ll read till I’m back on Monday, Jan. 3. So an early happy new year!
But in case you wanted some good reading to keep you busy, I’m listing a couple of recent magazine stories that should fill your time. In the spirit of David Brooks’ "Sidney Awards" — his annual list of personal favorite magazine-length stories of the year — I’ll call these my Sinbad awards. To be sure, they’re hardly comprehensive, since they’ve only been published in the last couple of weeks. But they are are good.
New York magazine’s profile of Martin Peretz, the long-time owner and editor in chief of The New Republic. Peretz has always been something of an anomoly at the magazine, whose liberal roots go back to its founding almost 100 years ago. But he’s left one particularly strong stamp: strident defense of Israel. But after some bigoted words about Muslims on his TNR blog stoked a media storm a few months ago, he’s gone off to Israel, in search of a quiet place. Fascinating read.
The New York Review of Books has a fantastic review of the recent Leo Castelli biography by Annie Solal-Cohen. The essay’s by the Times’ chief art critic, Michael Kimmelman, who puts the Castelli’s Jewish roots at the center of his art world strategy. Even though Castelli was notorious for public evasions of his Jewish identity, the experience of being a World War II refugee and especially his youth in the Trieste, Italy, made social alienation a fundamental spur of his professional life. The artists he championed — Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Nauman — were all outsiders too. Only a few were Jewish, but they all spoke to the Jewish experience.
Harper’s also has an immensely revealing, if slightly insensitively written, story on the Crown Heights Hasidic community. The journalist uncovers the growing tension, often violent, between two warring factions within the community. The rift is as much territorial as it is theological, with the Shomrim believing Rabbi Schneerson’ was not the messiah, while the off-shoot Shmira believing he is. The disagreement has gotten violent since both sects function essentially like para-police units, acting as ambulances, fire departments, and security guards all at once. The author argues that the violent flare ups between the two sects wouldn’t have ever happened had a strong spiritual leader replaced Schneerson immediately after his death. Now the community is going into a tailspin.
Last, check out my article this week (apologies for the shameless self-promotion). It’s about the cultural and academic arm of the boycott, divestment and sanction movement against Israel.