The “Overweight Sensation” That Was Allan Sherman

I may be a goyische shiksa, but I know from Yiddish. That fact has flummoxed more than one Jewish friend in my life. “Where did you learn to say ‘Gotenyu’ ['for God's sake']?” someone will ask. The simple answer: I learned it from one of my oldest friends and mentors - a self-professed “Brooklyn boy” whose ancestors fled Russian pogroms to make their fortunes in America. My Brooklyn friend was born in 1948 – two generations too late for shtetl-speak, but right on time for …

The Creator’s Calling

Two weeks ago, the publishing world was rocked by the news that The Cuckoo’s Calling – supposedly a debut mystery novel written by one “Robert Galbraith” – was in fact the handiwork of Harry Potter’s creator, J. K. Rowling. Why did Rowling choose to wrap herself in the invisibility cloak of a nom de plume? She may have been eager to avoid the unreasonably high expectations (and concomitantly dismal notices) that overshadowed last year’s The Casual Vacancy, her first stand-alone …

The Generation Gap: Sometimes a Great Notion!

Three years ago, magazine writer Katie Hafner’s family was in turmoil. Her mother was 77 and at loose ends, cast adrift by her husband’s incipient dementia (he had moved back in with his family of origin). Her daughter, Zoe, was an impressionable 16 and still reeling from the 2009 death of her father (Hafner’s husband, Matt). And as a 51-year-old widow, Hafner herself was eager to resolve some long-standing conflicts with her mother: abandonment and estrangement, for starters. Wouldn’t housing …

City of Light Reading

Why is the publishing industry so vulnerable to trends? I don’t really care – I’m having too much fun pointing them out! To capture the recent explosion of books with Paris in their title, for example, I concocted this Mad-Lib: If you go to 1) Paris because someone told you 2) Paris Was the Place, you might see 3) The Woman from Paris standing in the 4) Paris Twilight. Unless you’ve had some 5) Lessons in French, however, you may …

The 4th of July – in June!

Think you’re a firecracker on American history? Bet you didn’t know that… …George Washington stood nearly 6 foot 3. …John Adams was all about the girth of a nation; the man weighed in at 200 pounds. …Thomas Jefferson was a shy and aloof young man, “known to cross his arms over his chest” during the deliberations that led to the Declaration of Independence. Don’t feel bad – I didn’t know any of that either. At least not until I read …

All Hail The Queen of Irreverence!

“Most people think I’m a hard-drinking slut, but really I’m an angel of mercy.” That’s journalist Marion Winik talking about her new book, Highs in the Low 50s: How I Stumbled through the Joys of Single Living. I’ll understand completely if you expect it to contain all manner of lewd behavior. But having written previously about everything from her drug use in early adulthood to her first husband’s death from AIDs complications in 1994, Winik seems to have Toned Things Down …