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Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land Hardcover – September 1, 2011
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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!Read more ›
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?
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Seen from Europe, it's perhaps only in USA than Yiddish is still a living language: this book offers a brillant evidence, with comic strips as modern media, how transplant... Read morePublished on August 24, 2014 by bernard5293
Probably the best introduction to "mamaloshen" (Yiddish)
life and particularly the rich literature of novels, short stories,
and drama. Read more
I thought it would be more about the Yiddish language and how it has infiltrated everyday society. It was interesting, but boring. Read morePublished on January 18, 2014 by Malka Rose
I love this book! It was a trip down memory lane for me as well as a visual adventure.
Well written, well illustrated and packed with information and humor.