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Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof Hardcover – October 22, 2013


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Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof + The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye (Jewish Encounters) + My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 edition (October 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805092609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805092608
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

“As rich and dense as a chocolate babka—so crammed with tasty layers that you have to pace yourself… As brilliant a piece of reporting as I’ve read this year.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“Exuberant.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“An illuminating and detailed history.”
The Jewish Daily Forward

“Glorious... A thrilling, must-read book... In more than thirty years of reading, writing and thinking about theater as an actor, critic and fan, I've never read a book on the subject that taught or moved me as much – reflecting Solomon’s ability to weave gobs of meticulous research into a compelling, beautifully written story.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“The aptly-titled Wonder of Wonders is the richest, deepest, most far-ranging, continuously and delightfully surprising book about a single work of theatrical art I’ve ever encountered. An intellectually serious, playful, and insightful account of popular art’s power to shape memory and transmute history into universal myth, it is a soul-stirring joy to read, and only Alisa Solomon could have written it.”
—Tony Kushner, author of Angels in America

“I expected that this book would revive many treasured memories, which it certainly did. What I didn’t expect to find was the fascinating history of Sholem-Aleichem’s Tevye’s Daughters or the riveting and unexpectedly moving account of Fiddler’s fortunes after the end of the musical’s Broadway run. I have always been proud of Fiddler, but never more so than after reading this astonishing book.”
—Sheldon Harnick, lyricist, Fiddler on the Roof

 “Alisa Solomon was put on earth to write this exceptional and essential book. A world-class theater critic, a learned Yiddishist, a trenchant journalist, and just a plain wonderful writer, she has brought all her skills to bear in tracing the history of the Tevye stories that became Fiddler on the Roof. The Broadway musical, in her hands, becomes a Rosetta Stone for understanding the Jewish journey.”
 —Samuel G. Freedman, author of Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry
 
Wonder of Wonders is a wonder! Alisa Solomon explains in vivid detail how and why Fiddler on the Roof became iconic as both authentically Jewish and universally relevant. A fantastic storyteller, an astute cultural interpreter, and a superb critic, Solomon offers an elegantly crafted, moving, thoughtful, and entertaining account of Fiddler’s journeys across time and place. This is the story of Fiddler for the ages.”
—Stacy Wolf, author of Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical

“If you think you have seen Fiddler on the Roof, think again. The wonder of it all is the magic that transformed stories by Sholem-Aleichem into a near universal icon of enduring power. How that happened, the multifarious forms and meanings of Fiddler on the Roof, is the subject of Alisa Solomon’s meticulously researched and beautifully written book.”
—Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, author of Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage

 “Wonder of Wonders combines probing theater history with incisive cultural studies and a compelling narrative. From Sholem-Aleichem’s Tevye stories to the triumphant Broadway musical, from politically charged productions in Brooklyn, Tel Aviv, and Kraków to the sanctification of Fiddler numbers in Jewish ritual, Alisa Solomon traces the transformation of Fiddler into a cultural phenomenon that has powerfully spoken for American Jews as well as so many others around the world.”
—Jeffrey Shandler, author of Shtetl: A Vernacular Intellectual History

About the Author

Alisa Solomon teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she directs the Arts & Culture concentration in the MA program. A theater critic and general reporter for The Village Voice from 1983 to 2004, she has also contributed to The New York Times, The Nation, Tablet, The Forward, and other publications. Her first book, Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theater and Gender, won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. She lives in New York City.

More About the Author

Alisa Solomon teaches at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where she directs the Arts & Culture concentration in the MA program. A theater critic and cultural and political reporter for the Village Voice from 1993 to 2004, she has also contributed to the New York Times, The Nation, Tablet, The Forward, the Daily Beast, howlround.com and other publications. Her first book, Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theater and Gender, won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. Alisa also works as a dramaturg, most recently with Anna Deavere Smith on her one-woman show, LET ME DOWN EASY. She serves on the Scholars Council of Theater for a New Audience.

Alisa lives in New York City. She likes to cook and she has been practicing Seido Karate for 30 years.

Customer Reviews

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A great history of a musical class.
Amazon Customer
And now I have fallen in love with FIDDLER all over again thanks to Alisa Solomon's scholarly book, WONDER OF WONDERS, A CULTURAL HISTORY OF FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.
DKSforWriting
This author has done an exceptional job of providing an energetic tone to a narrative that is enjoyable and fun to read.
crabsimon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Andrew W. Johns VINE VOICE on October 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The story of Tevye and Anatevka has taken on a cultural life of its own, as has the music from the "Fiddler on the Roof". The worldwide impact is all the more impressive when we look at the story's origins in a series of Yiddish short stories written by Sholem-Aleichem in the decades that bridge the 19th and 20th centuries. The path from these beginnings to Broadway and Hollywood success was neither straightforward nor easy, and it was not clear that these stories would find wide acceptance. That the story has been so wildly successful is a tribute to the efforts of the many people who worked so hard to interpret and transform the stories, while preserving something essential that seems to speak to widely diverse audiences.

This book is a detailed examination of the history of that transformation, from the original short stories, through various efforts to adapt them to the stage, to the ultimate Broadway and Hollywood triumphs that mark the "Fiddler on the Roof". Along the way, it touches on issues as widely divergent as the immigration and assimilation struggles of Eastern European Jews in the US in the first half of the 20th century, the history of American theater in the middle of the century, and the cultural impact that the musical has had since it opened on Broadway in the mid-1960s.

At times, the level of detail swamps the narrative, but it attests to the depth of the author's research into the history and impact of this work. There are parts of this book that are likely to appeal to a wide range of readers, from those who want to understand the effort it takes to construct a Broadway musical, to those who want to better understand the cultural and political concerns of Jewish immigrants a century ago.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By crabsimon on November 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
WONDER OF WONDERS, A CULTURAL HISTORY OF FIDDLER ON THE ROOF by Alisa Solomon is, in a single word,'WONDERFUL!' This author has done an exceptional job of providing an energetic tone to a narrative that is enjoyable and fun to read. Included in the engaging history of how FIDDLER came to be are true behind-the-scene stories about very colorful showbiz personalities and other characters that the reader comes to know and (usually) love. Often hilarious,sometimes intense and always entertaining, these true tales are just one way that the author captivates her audience. WONDER OF WONDERS is both powerful and entertaining, just like FIDDLER ON THE ROOF- it is a must have/must read for all FIDDLER fans.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Thomas P. Hayes on December 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have always loved Fiddler on the Roof and now I know why. This book was so enlightening to me. As an Irish Catholic from the Midwest, it gave me a richer understanding of the issues of Jewish identity that this play nudged forward into a central place in the understanding of American identity.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DKSforWriting on November 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first fell in love with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF when I saw it performed on stage. I was twelve years old. My family played the record (LP) so many times, there were grooves within the grooves. In 1971, I again fell in love with FIDDLER when the movie, staring Israeli actor, Chaim Topol,was released. And now I have fallen in love with FIDDLER all over again thanks to Alisa Solomon's scholarly book, WONDER OF WONDERS, A CULTURAL HISTORY OF FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. Solomon is a brilliant writer who, through meticulous research (all notated) details a complete history and evolution of a phenomenon that, even today, 50 years after first appearing on Broadway, continues to 'speak' to a global audience, crossing many different cultures and faith backgrounds. Solomon's ability to recognize, impeccably research and cohesively and flawlessly describe precisely how FIDDLER became such a beloved global gem, is, in itself, a phenomenon. Solomon provides an encyclopedic knowledge of her subject, and in so doing, offers an erudite compilation that includes rare pictures and wonderful anecdotes taken from interviews (also meticulously documented) with surviving FIDDLER participants and their children. Anyone that loves FIDDLER will love-and learn--from this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Holly E Kane on February 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is my first ever Amazon review. I adored this book. I grew up in a New York suburbs in the 60's and went to see the play on Broadway with my parents. Wonder of Wonders explained why Fiddler on the Roof was so important to me. It put the play, my heritage, and my life in its historical context.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jjo on June 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My only note of caution is that for those looking for nothing more than a backstage story of how this musical got made, you will only like part of the book. This is a cultural history, using Fiddler to examine how Jews have dealt with the notion of the Eastern European shtetl. It therefore starts with how Sholem Aleichem wrote what he wrote, and how his stories and plays were viewed in Europe and the U.S. It then moves on to Fiddler. While it does provide an extraordinary behind the scenes look, the real focus is on how making the play caused the creators to reassess their heritage. Finally, it looks at how Fiddler has played around the world. The weakest section is on the creation of the movie, but even that had some interest. Extremely well written, so if the subject matter interests you, you should really enjoy the book.
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