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Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land Hardcover – September 1, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Paul Buhle, retired from Brown University, has written and edited 42 books, including the award-winning Art of Harvey Kurtzman, Jews and American Comics, and the three-volume Jews and American Popular Culture. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Harvey Pekar (1939–2010) is best known for his autobiographical comic book series American Splendor and Our Cancer Year, which was made into an Academy Award–nominated film starring Paul Giamatti in 2003.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; Bilingual edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810997495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810997493
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Lasky has been a published cartoonist since 1989. Among his best known work is the award-nominated "Urban Hipster" and "No Ordinary Flu," in collaboration with King County Public Health. His most recent work is the graphic novel, "Don't Forget This Song," the story of country music's Carter Family.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By David From New York on September 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
What do people want from this book. The Jewish Encyclopedia it isn't. It's a radical attempt to portray the experience and milieu of Yiddishkeit in America. I could think of a thousand subjects it didn't cover, like sports. But oy, what it does cover it does so well!

Like I said, a scholarly book, this isn't; a thorough and enjoyable book this is. Don't think Talmud; think The Wise Men of Chelm as if Chelm were the USA. I can't think of a better introduction to Yiddishkeit. I think I'll take it down to Yonah Schimmel's or Katz's tomorrow evening, read it and kvell.

One more thing: politics is in here; don't be afraid. If your grandparents were in the ILGWU or your parents were old Lefties, you'll love it especially.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mae on September 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Yiddishkeit," published last week, is a mixed bag of short vignettes about Yiddish authors; one-page summaries of various historic trends (especially political activism and persecution of left-wingers); graphic-novel treatments of the lives of movie script writers, actors, and other entertainment figures; and one full-length play containing excerpts from many Yiddish theater works. And more.

The visual treatment of literary and biographical topics in "Yiddishkeit" is fun, but very truncated: for example, it offers a 3-page summary of Aaron Lansky's memoir "Outwitting History," (which I think is actually a better treatment of Yiddish in America) and a 12-page "retelling" in graphic form of the 1937 Yiddish movie "Greenfields." And more.

The introductory narratives in this book suggests that it is some type of comprehensive treatment of Yiddish culture - _Yiddishkeit_ - in America. It implies that there will be material about the exceptionality of Yiddish as a language, though I don't think that's really achieved. And while it covers a lot of other cultural material, it also misses some very big topics, and I think it misses them with a bias.

Would you be surprised if I thought it was biased against women? That it missed the presence of Yiddish-speaking Jews and Yiddish culture outside of New York and Hollywood? That it skipped over the existence of scholars of Yiddish language and culture prior to the current academic version of Yiddish studies?

Here are some of the topics that might make a more complete story of Yiddishkeit that are dismissed, glossed over, or not there at all:
* Food.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on February 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Joseph Perl a post-modernist? Who knew??? I drool over this on amazon.co.uk. Have a dekko (not Yiddish but Hindi). Seriously, it's worth giving it a shufty (not Yiddish bt WW2 Arabic). And there's probably a Romany word for 'look' too. But Yiddish we ALL speak without knowing it
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Format: Hardcover
I was raised by Jews. My grandparents were born in either Belarus or Poland and, as very small children, fled to America to either escape persecution or to try to make a better life for their families. They brought with them their religion, their culture, and Yiddish. As they assimilated, all of these things began to wane. My parents have only chunks, and I have even less. But I do have memories, especially of my grandparents speaking Yiddish when they didn't want me to know what they were talking about.

Yiddish is a language of rich sounds. It is a language of comedy. It is also a language of pathos.

In his introduction to the comics anthology Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and The New Land edited by Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle, noted author Neal Gabler says:

Yiddish may be the most onomatopoeic language ever created. Everything sounds exactly the way it should: macher for a self-appointed big shot, shlmiel for the fellow who spils the soup and shlmazel for the poor guy who gets the soup spilled on him, putz for an active louse, shmuck for a hapless one (as in "poor shmuck"), shnorer for a freeloader, nudnick for a pest. The expressiveness is bound into the language, and so is a kind of ruthless honesty. There is no decorousness in Yiddish, nor much romance. It is raw, egalitarian, vernacular.

Yiddish is a mutt. The language is an intermixture of German, Polish, and Hebrew that relies on grammatical rules of its own devising. The people who speak it are the Yiddishkeit ,and their language reflects much of their sensibility about life. There is sort of an optimistic fatalism to the Yiddishkeit. Things are the way they are. They may get better, but if not, you got what you got. Oy!
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By B. Wolinsky on September 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I come from an Orthodox Ashkenazi Jewish American family, and I never learned Yiddish. My grandparents, born in the USA, learned it from their parents, but they didn't pass it on to us. Today, most speakers of Yiddish are Hasidic Jews, and that's it. The few non-Hasids who use Yiddish in casual speech are mostly elderly. Yeshivas teach Hebrew to the kids, not Yiddish. Most Jews consider Yiddish a leftover from the days when they weren't free. But it served a purpose in the old days. We needed a common language no matter where we ended up.

Unfortunately, many of the great Yiddish writers are forgotten. Their books are rarely read (in Yiddish or English) and the Yiddish films exist only to scholars. Most of the Yiddish theatres are gone in New York, as the use of the language died out. Hasidic Jews don't go to theatres, so they're not going to preserve it.

I didn't like the book all that much, despite its attempts to be funny. There are too many short chapters to follow, and the illustrations are a little too "busy." It jumps too quickly from one topic to the next. If you want to learn about Yiddish, see the documentary "Sholom Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness." It illustrates the world of Yiddish much better. It also pays to learn that Sholom Aleichem never taught his kids Yiddish, only Russian. His plays were not popular in the USA when he first visited, because they were all about an oppressed minority. New York's Yiddish theatre celebrated being the freedom of the USA. Perhaps they were also about the problems you face when you have so many choices available?
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