Book Event

Friday, October 31, 2008

Jewish in an Arab World

SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ by Dalia Sofer is based on the author’s family who escaped from Iran in 1982 when she was 10, and her story mirrors her family’s experiences. On a September day in 1981, gem trader Isaac Amin is accosted by Revolutionary Guards at his Tehran office and imprisoned for no other crime than being Jewish in a country where Muslim fanaticism is growing daily. In anguish over what might be happening to his family, Isaac watches the brutal mutilation and executions of prisoners around him. His wife, Farnaz, struggles to keep from slipping into despair, while his young daughter, Shirin, steals files from the home of a playmate whose father is in charge of the prison that holds her father. Far away in Brooklyn, Isaac's nonreligious son, Parviz, struggles without his family's money and falls for the pious daughter of his Hasidic landlord. The heartbreak of a family who wishes to be Iranian in a country that reminds them and punishes them for who they are fills the reader with sadness. The story is very well told and the reader feels vividly their pain. Reading this in tandem withThe Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucille Lagnado is a revelation of struggles in the Arab world to be Jewish and accepted.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm Ready For My Close-Up

Why did Jun Nakayama abandon his silent film career at the height of his popularity? In The Age of Dreaming, Nina Revoyr narrates the story of a handsome Japanese movie star who, in the early 1900's, took Hollywood by storm. In collaboration with the famous director Ashley Tyler, and the sophisticated actress, Elizabeth Banks, Nakayama made several intriguing films that brought him popular and critical aclaim. But after ten years of fame he abandoned his career and began a quiet life in obscurity. Revoyr starts her tale in the 1960's when Nakayama is "rediscovered" by Bellinger, a screenwriter who has studied his movies and thinks he would be perfect for a part in his new script. While researching Nakayama's films, he becomes captivated by the still unsoved murder of Ashley Tyler, and tries to link this mystery to the japanese actor. As Nakayama revisits his past to try to prevent the truth from being revealed, he begins to realize that his choices had consequences that affected the lives of many people, and that he still might have a chance at redemption.
Unspooling slowly, like a silent movie, The Age of Dreaming goes beyond the murder mystery, into the craft of film-making itself. After reading the novel, I researched collections of silent films, and promised that I would look beyond the comedies of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin to explore some of the dramatic films that are still available. Through Revoyr's characters, who are based on real people who lived in the Hollywood movie community, the silent film tradition is revived and celebrated.