Arts & Culture

The Big Jewcy: Akiva Gottlieb, Writer/Reporter

Whether it be reporting on arts or politics for The Nation, or book reviews for the LA Times, we feel pretty confident saying that Akiva Gottlieb is carving out a niche for himself as one of the most captivating and … Read More

By / June 16, 2010

Whether it be reporting on arts or politics for The Nation, or book reviews for the LA Times, we feel pretty confident saying that Akiva Gottlieb is carving out a niche for himself as one of the most captivating and versatile young journalists out there.  What’s next on the 24-year-old writer’s agenda?  He is beginning a Ph.D in English at the University of Michigan this fall, but first, a few recommendations for Jewcy readers.

 

For those who get the feeling they weren’t given the complete story of Zionism in Hebrew school, Gershom Gorenberg’s The Accidental Empire, a narrative history of the birth of the settlements, is a necessary corrective. His unpacking of the romantic song "Jerusalem of Gold" as a work of secular nationalism shows how the marriage of emotions and ideology can yield powerful, and often counterproductive, results. Glen Duncan’s A Day and a Night and a Day, which came out last year, was largely slept on, but there’s no other recent novel whose sentences I’ve underlined as furiously. The publisher describes it as a "Grand Inquisition for the twenty-first century," and certainly it is that, as well as a love story and a nominal thriller about international terrorism. (In the same historically sweeping vein, I’d recommend Kamila Shamsie’s more conventional but equally ambitious Burnt Shadows.)  But Duncan writes most hauntingly about something called representational saturation. There’s too much information everywhere. "Now there’s no way things are, only claims about the way things are." I’m starting to cram for grad school, and let me tell you that Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory: An Introduction is more fun that it sounds. It tackles a central question of the humanities: Why do we study English literature? Eagleton finds a way to undermine every outmoded trend of 20th century academic literary discourse while solidifying the idea that all literature is political. This book is fairly dated but never didactic.  You don’t need me to tell you to watch Breaking Bad, but you can learn more about narrative and process and tension from the first two seasons of this show than from any movie since maybe Zodiac. The first few episodes of Season Two were so tense, I considered quitting for good.