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Born To Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged

3.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Most people's view of Yiddish is likely one of innocuous humor, whining and over-the-top curses. This extremely engaging portrait of a language reveals the droller, sharper and even more hilarious side of Yiddishkite. Like any truly excellent biographer, Wex delves deeply into aspects of Yiddish hidden in plain sight, exposing a richness and history all but lost today. Insults and kvetches (complaints) are the only way an oppressed exile can cope: an art form of cutting down the very essence of the thing that is being insulted all the while hiding the true level of insult from anyone not steeped in the culture. The audio format adds life as intonation and pronunciation are clear but the loss of a glossary is a small misfortune. (Although the addition of track listings on the CDs is a plus.) The Canadian author's bizarre, somewhat hypnotic reading style—with its randomly elongated vowels—is a cross between Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man character and a classic Yiddish whine. It will either continually amuse or drive listeners up the wall. Far more engrossing than linguistics should be, this audio will educate, entertain and enrich the perceptions of its listeners.
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About the Author

Novelist, lecturer, and translator Michael Wex is one of the leading lights in the revival of Yiddish, and author of the New York Times bestseller Born to Kvetch and its follow-up, Just Say Nu.



Novelist, lecturer, and translator Michael Wex is one of the leading lights in the revival of Yiddish, and author of the New York Times bestseller Born to Kvetch and its follow-up, Just Say Nu.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: HarperAudio; Unabridged edition (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061131229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061131226
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,470,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This may be a brilliant and insightful book, but as an audio CD it is impossible to listen to. I wish I had paid attention to the PW review, because it is all too apt. ("The Canadian author's bizarre, somewhat hypnotic reading style--with its randomly elongated vowels--is a cross between Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man character and a classic Yiddish whine.") Imagine what it would sound like if English were chanted like a Hebrew prayer by a computer generated voice . I still plan to read this highly praised book, but for me the audio version has been a complete disaster. I have given up on it.
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These CDs provided me with 9 1/2 hours of pure yiddish delight. The author/speaker is very easy to listen to. I was learning so much about yiddish and Judaism in these hours that I couldn't stop listening! Mr. Wex is easy to understand and listen to, even over a few hours period. He covers so many topics and explains things so well. He talks about every aspect of Judaism and answered endless questions that I had, that were never answered before. Some things that were covered I was surprised to hear. I always thought these were local things, or things only my family and friends talked about. Surprise- They were international. I will listen to this over and over, and encourage my family to do the same. I give this my highest recommendation. A BEST BUY !!
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Format: Audio CD
Like most previous reviewers, I loved this book. I did want to mention that the audio version, narrated by the author, is problematic. On the positive front, the author pronounces Yiddish correctly! The problem is in how he pronounces English. He has a very odd way of speaking, with the last word of each sentence articulated very slowly (str-e-e-e-etched out) and about three notes lower than every other word in the sentence. Every sentence ends with a melodic downturn. I found it quite maddening and really had trouble enjoying the book because of it. You may want to be careful if you plan to buy the audio book because his diction is really rather odd.
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Publisher's Weekly has it right. I found the author's voice annoying almost to the point to not being able to listen. But I stuck with it because the book is full of valuable information. And then just when I thought I couldn't stand it any more, he came up with a zinger that I found hilarious. So, my advice is if you can ignore or get used to the whiney voice, try to listen for the content and humor.
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First of all full disclosure, possible conflict of interest: I know Michael Wex and think he is a genius. I would buy anything he writes, records, I don't care. His shopping lists are probably more exciting than half of the stuff in print today. So, I don't pretend to be neutral.

Recently I spent four days listening to him lecture at the annual Klezkamp get together. I couldn't stop laughing. My sister sat next to me. She was laughing so hard I thought she might need emergency medical care.

The material is potentially beyond dull. Wex's genius is that he makes it dance and makes me beg for more. Granted, I am a Yiddishist and love the language and culture. Also, I come from a similar background having sat in a yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) for several years, so I identify with much of what he discusses. However, as the old commercial for Levy's rye bread went, "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's." Anyone with the least interest in European Jewish culture will find this work to be a gold mine.

Why? Because what he says ( writes in his book) is, as far as I know, totally original. There is so much sentimental nonsense written about Yiddish and European Jewry. This book totally strips that away. Here you get the real, unvarnished thing.

Some people complain about his voice. For me, it is the perfect voice for this book. It is the quintessential Eastern European Jewish voice with a beautiful Canadian undertone. The tone, the flow, the candence are all classic kvetch with a generous contribution from Leonard Cohen. I grew up with many people who spoke this way. I find it totally wonderful that the publisher would have Michael read his own work; it is a stroke of genius. I listened to the entire set in my car.
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First off, the content: Michael Wex's survey of all things Yiddish is totally fascinating -- funny, scholarly, full of odd and interesting historical nuggets about language and society and the Jewish people. As for the reading style - well, different strokes for different folks, I think. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I found it rather entrancing, to be honest - though I can certainly understand those who disliked it (even those who disliked it intensely), I was not among them. Thoroughly enjoyable.
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