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

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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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 (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Yiddishkeit is a kind of Rosetta Stone to the essentially lost secular culture of the European and later New York Jews. Surprisingly, it's mostly a "graphic novel" (cartoon format), but it's not a novel. It's a historical guide to the greatest writers, thinkers and social activists of the non-religious Yiddish-speaking world of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Also included many very entertaining sections in conventional text, in the form of plays, stories and glossaries of Yiddish vernacular. Required reading for any thinking person, young or old. This is a very important book. Highly recommended.
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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 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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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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