American author-essayist Shalom Auslander and Toronto writer-activist Michele Landsberg have been chosen to headline the new Toronto Jewish Book Festival in early June, the hosting Koffler Centre of the Arts announced last week.
Auslander is an ironic and irreverent American Jewish writer whose religion-bashing memoir Foreskin’s Lament (2007) first catapulted him to international prominence. He is coming to Toronto to speak about his recent first novel, Hope: A Tragedy, which brings diarist Anne Frank back to life as a crotchety old woman hiding in an attic in New York state.
Auslander is iconoclastic and wickedly funny. Earlier this month, when CBC Radio asked him what prompted him to reinvent Anne Frank, he quipped, “A lot of very good marijuana and prescription medication.” On a more serious note, he explained that writing the “darkly funny” novel “was my way of taking a flashlight and shining it in the dark corners to see what’s there.”
Landsberg, feminist icon and former columnist for 25 years for the Toronto Star, will speak on her new collection of essays, Writing the Revolution (published by Second Story Press). She launched the book last fall with her son Avi Lewis, daughter-in-law Naomi Klein and city alderman Kristyn Wong-Tam.
The festival will also feature recording-industry legend Bernie Finklestein on his new memoir True North: A Life Inside the Music Business; a tribute to Canadian cultural icons Celia Franca and John Hirsch by authors Carol Bishop-Gwyn and Fraidie Martz; and programs with authors Seymour Mayne, B. Glen Rotchin, Sara Tauben, Morley Torgov, George Jonas, Nora Gold, Lilian Nattel, Anne Dublin and others.
The festival succeeds the 34-year-old Toronto Jewish Book Fair and culminates in the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards. Bram and Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Reference Library, June 4 to 7. Admission free, everyone welcome. Full details soon at www.kofflerarts.org.
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Winning Play Gets Reading: Haunted, the play by Daniel Karasik that won the 2011 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition, tells the story of a university professor, recently widowed, who enters a romance with a rabbi as her daughter claims to see her father’s ghost. A reading, directed by Alisa Palmer, features Sascha Cole, Rosemary Dunsmore, Sarah English and Jordan Pettle. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, Tuesday, April 10, 8 p.m. Suggested donation, $10. 416-924-6211, ext. 606.
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Jews in the Red Army: The exhibit Lives of the Great Patriotic War: Untold Stories of Soviet Jewish Soldiers in the Red Army during WWII, is on view at Congregation Darchei Noam, 864 Sheppard Ave. W., until April 4.
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Names in the News: Carl Reiner, the celebrated American writer, actor and comedian, marked his 90th birthday last week. The Bronx-born son of a Jewish watchmaker from Romania, Reiner worked with Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and other writers on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, developed and acted in television’s The Dick Van Dyke Show, and performed with Brooks in The 2,000 Year Old Man. Among many other career credits, he also appeared in The Russians Are Coming and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
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• Kat Goldman, who lives both in Toronto and Cambridge, Mass. (where she studies at Harvard University), launches her third CD, Gypsy Girl, with Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies. Her music is “a distinctive blend of coffee-house comfort and snappy pop pertinence.” Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas St. W. Tuesday, April 10, 8:30 p.m. $20 advance, $25 at the door. 416-531-6604, www.hughsroom.com.
• The World’s Greatest Cantors in Concert, Toronto Centre for the Arts, Wednesday, March 28, 7:30 p.m. www.greatestcantors.com
• Encore Entertainment presents Songs in the Key of Stephen, a celebration of the songs of Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz. Toronto Centre for the Arts, George Weston Recital Hall, North York. March 31, 8 p.m. and April 1, 2 p.m. www.encoreshows.com, 1-855-985-2787
• Intercultural Journeys presents a concert featuring Udi Bar-David, Daniel Hass and Tobias Baz (cellos), Hafez El Ali Kotain (percussion), Hanna Khoury (violin), Youssef Kassab and Cantor Beny Maissner (vocals) and orchestra members from the Glenn Gould School. The program includes songs by Moshe Vilensky. The series was conceived as a means of bringing Israeli and Arabs together through music. Royal Conservatory, Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W. March 31, 8 p.m. www.rcmusic.ca
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At the Galleries: The Self-Portrait Show, featuring 17 works of art by Alex Colville, Lucian Freud, David Milne, Mary Pratt and other celebrated artists, is currently on view (until April 21) at the Mira Godard Gallery, 22 Hazelton Ave. The catalogue for this major exhibition, which marks the gallery’s 50th anniversary, was written by Toronto-based collector Eva Seidner, whose critical insights are as robust and luminous as the exhibition itself. 416-964-8197, www.godardgallery.com