E.L. Doctorow opens Washington's Jewish Literary Festival Oct. 6 and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz closes it Oct. 16 -- famous bookends to master mystery writer Walter Mosley; gay activist-author Dan Savage; a Judy Blume film; and far more.
The Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival of the D.C. Jewish Community Center (DCJCC) addresses wide-ranging topics from Hollywood's collaboration with Hitler; threats to Palestinian statehood, don't blame it all on Israel; Sholem Aleichem's life, even more dramatic than a Fiddler of the Roof; to the dish on celeb chefs of the Food Network.
So, for a delicious, stimulating start to the Jewish New Year, here are details about the lit fest's fascinating line-up:
Doctorow, author of "Ragtime", "Billy Bathgate" and eight other novels, gives an exclusive preview of his newest book, "Andrew's Brain" (Knopf, Jan. 14). It's a radical trip into the mind of a man who inadvertently causes disasters. Joyce Carol Oates has praised the multiple award-winner Doctorow as "A writer of dazzling gifts and boundless imaginative energy."
- Oct. 7 -- "Man of Mystery: Walter Mosley".
Mosley's mother, Ella Slatkin Mosley, was Jewish, and his father Leroy was black. A cousin taught Walter Yiddish curses. One of his faves: "You should be like a chandelier—hanging and burning."
Mosley left Rawlins and his fans hanging and burning for six years, when the detective drove off a Malibu cliff, crashed, and went into a coma. "Little Green" (Random House) is the first Rawlins book since then.
Speaking of Yiddish, the next two nights feature books relating to the beloved language and culture:
- Oct. 8 -- "Overweight Sensation: "The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman" by Mark Cohen.
Fifty years ago, Sherman released the novelty song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" to the tune of Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" from "La Gioconda", bringing smiles to audiences of all religions, and bringing Yiddisha humor into mainstream America.
This is the first biography (Brandeis University Press) of Sherman, termed a "brilliant wit, satirist beyond compare, and stand-up comic with a melody" by "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander.
- Oct. 9 -- "The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye" by Jeremy Dauber.
At this free event, Dauber discusses the first comprehensive biography Sholem Aleichem, a founding giant of modern Yiddish literature. Sholem's "Tevye the Dairyman" is the short story collection that inspired "Fiddler on the Roof".
Aleichem, born Sholem Rabinovich in the Ukraine in 1859, was impoverished but married into fabulous wealth, then lost it all through bad luck and worse business sense. He became a novelist, playwright, journalist, essayist, and editor to support himself and his family. He switched from writing in Russian and Hebrew to Yiddish, and created literature for the Jewish masses.
Author Dauber, professor of Yiddish literature at Columbia University, where he also serves as director of its Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, will discuss "The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem" (Random House, Oct. 8. 2013).
- Oct. 10 -- "The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact with Hitler" by Ben Urwand.
This intriguing book reveals for the first time that Hollywood studios, most headed by Jews, cooperated with Hitler's representatives, and abandoned or changed movies that would have exposed Nazism's horrors, especially its persecution of Jews, throughout the 1930s.
Drawing upon secret, never before cited documents, Urwand also reveals that Fox and Paramount actually produced pro-Nazi newsreels, and MGM invested in German weapons. Urwand notes that Hitler was "obsessed" with movies, especially Hollywood movies. Here're some of the Furer's comments: Laurel and Hardy's "Way Out West" -- "Good!"; "Tarzan" -- "Bad".
- Oct. 12 -- "American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics" by Dan Savage.
"America’s most in-your-face sex columnist and gay rights activist," says "Publishers Weekly" of Savage. He's best- known for "Savage Love", his internationally syndicated sex column, and "It Gets Better Project", the powerful, poignant video campaign Savage launched in response to a wave of LGBT youth suicides. He'll discuss the "gay agenda" and faith communities, gay marriage, sex ed...
Celebrate books with crafts, folktales, a sing-along and story-time with Pamela Mayer, author of "Don’t Sneeze at the Wedding" -- and special guest Elmo.
- Oct. 13 -- Local Author Fair: Discover a New Book.
Meet and greet authors at a free Local Author Fair, featuring Melissa Ford (author of "Measure of Love", "Navigating the Land of If", "Life from Scratch") and David Bruce Smith, author of "American Hero: John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States". Selected D.C.-area authors will have three minutes each to tell about their books. Buy a book and talk with local authors and fellow book lovers at a wine and cheese reception.
- Oct 14 -- "From Scratch: Inside the Food Network" by Allen Salkin.
Peek behind the scenes at the Food Network, which premiered in October 1993 to little notice, and is now in 100 million homes. Former "New York Times" food writer Salkin takes the Food Network "up a notch" by taking it down a notch. "From Scratch" (Putnam, Oct. 1, 2013) gives delicious tidbits about celebrity chefs like:
- disgraced former star Paula Deen.
- "a very green" Rachael Ray nearly burning down the set on her first day
- "a fragile" Emeril Lagasse, staggering from the shock of the network's announcing it was cancelling "Emeril Live" in two weeks.
- Anthony Bourdain whose "ridicule of Food Network personalities" gets its own index category.
The event includes sampling an Ina Garten "Barefoot Contessa" Food Network recipe.
- Oct. 15 -- "State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State" by Jonathan Schanzer.
In his provocative book, Schanzer argues that the main roadblock to Palestinian statehood is not Israel's intransigence, but the Palestinian Authority’s internal political dysfunction and corruption. Schanzer has testified before Congress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has written "Hamas vs. Fatah".
At this free preview of "State of Failure" (Palgrave Macmillan, Oct. 29, 2013), Schanzer discusses the reforms necessary to bring the Palestinians peace, prosperity, and stability.
- Oct. 15 -- "Tiger Eyes", the first film to be based on a Judy Blume book, is directed by her son Lawrence Blume, who will discuss it after the screening. She has written almost 30 books, which have sold more than 85 million copies, and have won more than 90 awards.
- Oct. 16 -- "For the Next Generation: A Wake-Up Call to Solving Our Nation's Problems" by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the first Jewish woman elected to represent Florida in the U.S. Congress. In "For the Next Generation" (St. Martin's Press), the five-term Congresswoman describes how she is fighting to overcome the legislative obstacles, and she urges Americans to lend their own strengths to securing a better tomorrow.
For a better October, plan to attend the lit fest.
For more info and tickets: Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival, http://washingtondcjcc.org/center-for-arts/literary/jewish-literary-festival/, Brochure. Most events are at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th Street at Q Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 202-777-3251.