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Books

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Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures

By Adina Hoffman
Published February 12, 2019
264 pages

“Electrifying” —Booklist, starred review

A vibrant portrait of one of the most accomplished and prolific American screenwriters, by an award-winning biographer and essayist

He was, according to Pauline Kael, “the greatest American screenwriter.” Jean-Luc Godard called him “a genius” who “invented 80 percent of what is used in Hollywood movies today.” Besides tossing off dozens of now-classic scripts—including Scarface,Twentieth Century, and Notorious—Ben Hecht was known in his day as ace reporter, celebrated playwright, taboo-busting novelist, and the most quick-witted of provocateurs. During World War II, he also emerged as an outspoken crusader for the imperiled Jews of Europe, and later he became a fierce propagandist for pre-1948 Palestine’s Jewish terrorist underground. Whatever the outrage he stirred, this self-declared “child of the century” came to embody much that defined America—especially Jewish America—in his time.
 
Hecht's fame has dimmed with the decades, but Adina Hoffman’s vivid portrait brings this charismatic and contradictory figure back to life on the page. Hecht was a renaissance man of dazzling sorts, and Hoffman—critically acclaimed biographer, former film critic, and eloquent commentator on Middle Eastern culture and politics—is uniquely suited to capture him in all his modes.

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Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent

By Paul Mendes-Flohr
Published March 26, 2019
440 pages

“Exquisite” —Amir Eshel, Stanford University

The first major biography in English in over thirty years of the seminal modern Jewish thinker Martin Buber

An authority on the twentieth-century philosopher Martin Buber (1878–1965), Paul Mendes-Flohr offers the first major biography in English in thirty years of this seminal modern Jewish thinker. Organized around several key moments—such as his sudden abandonment by his mother when he was a child of three—Mendes-Flohr shows how this foundational trauma left an enduring mark on Buber’s inner life, attuning him to the fragility of human relations and the need to nurture them with what he would call a “dialogical attentiveness.”
 
Buber’s philosophical and theological writings, most famously I and Thou, made significant contributions to religious and Jewish thought, philosophical anthropology, biblical studies, political theory, and Zionism. In this accessible new biography, Mendes-Flohr situates Buber’s life and legacy in the intellectual and cultural life of German Jewry as well as in the broader European intellectual life of the first half of the twentieth century.

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Alfred Stieglitz: Taking Pictures, Making Painters

By Phyllis Rose
Published April 16, 2019
272 pages

“The work of a master” —Judith Thurman, author of Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette

A fascinating biography of a revolutionary American artist ripe for rediscovery as a photographer and champion of other artists

Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) was an enormously influential artist and nurturer of artists even though his accomplishments are often overshadowed by his role as Georgia O’Keeffe’s husband. This new book from celebrated biographer Phyllis Rose reconsiders Stieglitz as a revolutionary force in the history of American art.

Born in New Jersey, Stieglitz at age eighteen went to study in Germany, where his father, a wool merchant and painter, insisted he would get a proper education. After returning to America, he became one of the first American photographers to achieve international fame. By the time he was sixty, he gave up photography and devoted himself to selling and promoting art. His first gallery, 291, was the first American gallery to show works by Picasso, Rodin, Matisse, and other great European modernists. His galleries were not dealerships so much as open universities, where he introduced European modern art to Americans and nurtured an appreciation of American art among American artists.

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