Joan Baum

In her moving, elegiac new novel The Burning Girl, Claire Messud alludes to childhood as a Wordsworthian time when we still trail “clouds of glory.” For adolescence, though, she invokes the Biblical phrase “through a glass darkly,” meaning that what we think we see and know of life and ourselves is imperfect. That the “weight of the world falls upon us” in adolescence, and pain and fear and uncertainty replace the bliss of being young.

Book Review: Steven Spielberg: A Life In Films

Jul 4, 2017

Despite praise for Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films – an assignment journalist Molly Haskell accepted for Yale University Press’s Jewish Lives series, this witty, accessible though sometimes glib inquiry disappoints. But not because Haskell’s not Jewish.

At an age many people retire – or expire – Judy Gethers who never worked a day in her life became a renowned gourmet chef. The granddaughter of a famed dairy restaurant owner on the Lower East Side, Ratner’s, she loved to eat well, but that was it. And then one day, sitting with her husband in Ma Maison, Wolfgang Puck’s upscale restaurant in Los Angeles, she suddenly decided she wanted to learn how to cook. She was 53.  

It’s been said that if there are raised letters on the jacket cover and the pages have a ragged, hand-cut look, the book’s important. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is, but in the case of Anita Shreve’s new novel, The Stars are Fire, her 18th, the signaling design proves correct. 

Book Review: The Huntress

Jan 25, 2017

Despite its odd title, The Huntress is not about hunting, though Alicia Patterson was an excellent shot and a superb horsewoman. What it is, is a biography of the debutante who was the founder and editor of Newsday. The co-authors are Alicia Patterson’s niece, Alice Arlen, who died this past February, and her husband Michael Arlen, a staff writer for years at The New Yorker.

Alicia Patterson was quite a mover and shaker. The subtitle of The Huntress gives the chronology: “The Adventures, Escapades and Triumphs of Alicia Patterson: Aviatrix, Sportswoman, Journalist, Publisher.” She was the middle daughter of the renegade Chicago Tribune heir, Joe Patterson, who wanted only boys. Alicia all her life craved his attention and love. No doubt that’s why she married much older men, the first two, friends of her father. And it’s probably why she eventually went into the newspaper business. “Poppa” could be daring. He left Chicago to found The New York Daily News, but once Alicia tasted the life, she outdid him in forging an independent press. She couldn’t have children. Newsday became her baby, and what a baby it was.  

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