Monday, May 20, 2019

"The novel moves at a rollicking pace"


Based on the aftermath of the 2012 coach bombing at Burgas in Bulgaria, Ellis Shuman’s fictional thriller, The Burgas Affair (Createspace, 2018), takes us on a roller coaster ride through Bulgaria and the Black Sea coast, following the exploits of a joint Bulgarian/Israeli detective team in tracking down the perpetrators. As such, this is perfect beach reading if you are staying on the Black Sea coast this summer.

Read the full review on talkingthepiste.com

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

It’s Not Easy Writing a Bad Review of a Good Book

I was already reading The Overstory by Richard Powers (W. W. Norton & Company, April 2018) when it was announced that the novel had won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I was reading the book but I wasn’t enjoying it. But, seeing that it had just won a literary award, I was determined to read until the end and see if I could understand why it had won the prize.

After finishing the book, I wasn’t sure whether I would write a review of The Overstory. I hesitated, not wanting to write a bad review because as an author, I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of criticism, if it’s not constructive. But the whole point of book reviews is to help a reader decide whether to read a book or not. To let a reader know what they are getting into. So as a service to readers, I will list a few of my impressions of this Pulitzer-winning novel.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The “Pogacha”


We are celebrating the birth of Nikola, the son of one of my wife’s colleagues. We are in the Sofia apartment where the newborn has been kept at home with his mother for 40 days, a period in which only the immediate family has been allowed to visit. But now the baby is no longer at risk from evil spirits. And a special round loaf bread has been baked for the occasion. The pogacha.

During our two-year stay in Bulgaria, we witnessed many of the local customs but this was the first time we had been invited into a Bulgarian home to be part of such an intimate ceremony. Usually, only women - family members and friends - are invited to this special ceremony. Traditionally men are supposed to leave the home, but on this occasion, I am invited to stay and along with a few other men, wait in a separate room.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Recent Reads - April 2019 edition


This year, winter in Israel was a long, drawn-out affair. After five years of drought, abundant rains fell, turning the hillsides and fields brilliant shades of green. Luckily, there are always good books to keep you company during the winter months. Listed below are some of the books I’ve read recently. I hope you will enjoy them as well!

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (G.P. Putnam's Sons, January 2018). How would you live your life if you knew the date of your death? This is the secret revealed in 1969 to the four young siblings of the Gold family. Simon is the youngest and he is the first to leave the family’s New York City home for the gay life of San Francisco. His departure is followed by Klara, who elects to become a Las Vegas magician. Daniel starts a career as a doctor in the American army and eldest sister Varya throws herself into the study of primates and research into longevity among human. Each of these stories is told in turn and we follow the siblings and their unfulfilled lives as they approach the date of their predetermined deaths. Well-developed characters and highly recommended!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Why I am voting Meretz, again


The main reason my vote went to Meretz in the past was its stance on the conflict with the Palestinians. Amazingly, that issue is barely mentioned in the run-up to the elections this year.

Looking through an archive on my blog I found an old article I wrote explaining why I was voting for the left-wing social-democratic and green political party. Although I agree with everything I wrote back then, the arguments I made seem so out of touch with today’s reality. And the reality right now is pretty bleak.

The outcome of the vote, I’m afraid, is already known. Bibi Netanyahu and his Likud party will again form a coalition with the rightwing parties. The next government will be extremist, a threat to our democratic state. Expect additional actions against Israel’s Arab minority; further concessions to the ultra-Orthodox; attacks on the justice system; and the annexation of Palestinian territories.

Meretz’s platform starts with the words, “The State of Israel is a democratic country, the country of the Jewish people and all its citizens.” Meretz works tirelessly to protect civil rights and promote social justice, including the rights of women, LGBTQ, retirees, national minorities, and people with limitations. These are worthy causes and I fully support them.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Late Night Encounter with My New Neighbors


I stared into the thick bushes and I could hear them. Shifting their weight, pawing the earth. Grunting. I couldn’t see them in the dark, or smell them, but I could sense their presence. There were two of them and they were large, and hairy, and very wild. And they knew I was nearby.

I had heard that a family of wild boars had made its home in the wilderness near my home on Moshav Neve Ilan. A shadow-filled photo depicted a late-night gathering of adults and piglets stomping around a traffic circle, sniffing at the earth. There were traces of them in my own garden – clumps of upturned dirt and hoofprints. But, for some strange reason, I never believed that they were real.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Jerusalem Is Much Harder to Run than Tel Aviv


My thigh muscles ache as I run up the cobblestoned ramp-like street leading to Jaffa Gate. I pass through the historic walls, breached for the visit of German Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898. I speed past the Citadel and down the narrow alleyways of the Armenian Quarter on my way to Zion Gate. I am running in the Old City of Jerusalem! I am running the Jerusalem Marathon’s 10-kilometer race and it isn’t easy!

I had challenged myself just three weeks before to run ten kilometers in the Tel Aviv Marathon. That was the first time I had ever run the distance in a real race. I have run 10 kilometers on a treadmill and on occasion I have made early morning 10-kilometer runs from my home in Moshav Neve Ilan to the entrance of the Arab village of Abu Gosh and back, but Tel Aviv was the first time I had ever competed with others.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Review of 'The Art of Leaving' by Ayelet Tsabari

In the opening pages of her memoir, Ayelet Tsabari’s father promises that he will one day publish her book. Ayelet, ten-years-old at the time, “had been writing ever since [she] learned the alphabet.” Even at that young age, the author’s love for writing was developing into a passion that would nourish and sustain her on peripatetic travels around the world. It is during these travels that the author seeks to answer the question that never fails to accompany her - where is home?

In The Art of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari (Random House, February 2019) we witness the transformation of the author’s childhood growing up in a large Yemeni family in a Tel Aviv suburb into a collection of prize-winning short stories. Also serving as background are her unruly service in the Israeli Defense Forces; her extended sojourns on the beaches of India and Thailand; her first marriage; and the awakening, later, of maternal instincts in Canada.