Update on Recent Developments

Wyman Institute Update: December 2, 2003

  1. Welcome to the newest member of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council:

    Maurice Sendak, the winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ and the only American illustrator to win the international Hans Christian Andersen Award (in 1970, for his body of work), is a visionary figure in children’s literature. Having begun by illustrating the works of others eventually including Else Holmelund Minarik, Randall Jarrell, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and the Brothers Grimm by 1956, with ‘Kenny’s Window,’ he had begun to create his own texts as well as illustrations.

    Also a distinguished set and costume designer for opera and ballet, he has designed productions of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute,’ Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker,’ and many others. In 1983, Mr. Sendak received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association, given in recognition of his entire body of work; in 1996 he received a National Medal of Arts in recognition of his contribution to the arts in America; and this year he received the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an annual, international prize for children’s literature established by the Swedish government.

    Ted Solotaroff served as associate editor of Commentary from 1960-1966, before becoming editor-in-chief of Book Week, the book review section of the New York Herald Tribune . He was the founding editor of New American Review, a paperback literary magazine published by New American Library. He served for seven years as an acquiring editor at Bantam Books, then joined Harper & Row as a senior editor in 1979, where he remained until his retirement in 1991. Since then he has written two memoirs: Truth Comes in Blows, published by W.W. Norton in 1998, which won the PEN award in “the art of the memoir,” and First Loves, published by Seven Stories Press in 2003.

    His essays and reviews have appeared in journals such as Commentary, Book Week, The New Republic, The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, American Poetry Review, The London Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review and Magazine, Esquire, Salmagundi, and Tikkun. In addition, Mr. Solotaroff has taught literature and creative writing at Columbia University, Yale University, New York University, and elsewhere. He received the Irita Van Doren Award in 1972 for his contribution to book publishing; the Brandeis University Arts award in 1973 for his work as a literary editor and critic, the Lucille Medwick Award in 1977 for his distinguished service to the literary community, and the Literature award of 2002 from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

  2. On the recent occasion of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s receipt of an award named for George C. Marshall, the Wyman Institute prepared a memorandum for Secretary Powell, detailing aspects of Marshall’s views with which the Secretary was apparently unaware. These included Marshall’s efforts in 1939-1940 to promote lectures by a former diplomat who denied German atrocities in Poland; Marshall’s opposition to racial integration of the U.S. army and his view that African-Americans are inferior to whites; and Marshall’s close association with the antisemitic demagogue General George Moseley.

  3. Wyman Institute Academic Council member Dr. Rebecca Kook (Ben-Gurion University) will speak on “Reflections on the Politics of the History of Rescue,” at the Rabbi Michael Be’er Weissmandel Memorial Evening, to be held at the Israel Center, 22 Keren HaYesod Street, Jerusalem, on Wednesday, December 3, 2003, at 6:00 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Root & Branch Association, the Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Israel World Center, and the Raoul Wallenberg Honorary Citizens Committee. For more information, call (02) 566-7787.

  4. Wyman Institute Academic Council member Dr. Efraim Zuroff was the subject of numerous recent media reports because of his efforts to secure the extradition of Nazi war criminal Bohdan Koziy from Costa Rica to Poland.

  5. An essay by Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff, “Conflicts Between American Jewish Leaders and Dissidents Over Responding to News of the Holocaust: Three Episodes from 1942-1943,” was published in the September 2003 issue (Vol.5, No.3) of the Journal of Genocide Research.

  6. Prof. Rob Stolzer of the University of Wisconsin, a member of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council, offers these comments on the new book ‘Fagin the Jew,’ by fellow-Council member Will Eisner:”Will Eisner has been on a decades-long mission to show the public how serious an art form comic books can be. Eisner has worked in comics since 1936, achieving early acclaim with his crime-fighting masked detective, The Spirit. He’s long been known for his strong cinematographic narrative skills, lush brushwork and wonderful characterizations. But in 1978, with the publication of Eisner’s ‘A Contract with God,’ the modern graphic novel was born. This art form allowed for not only a longer in-depth format, but for a more mature stage than comic books previously allowed.

    “‘Fagin the Jew’ is Will Eisner’s latest graphic novel. The book is rich in sepia hues that paint a version of Dickens’ character which calls attention to the negative stereotypes Jews have suffered in literature. Moses Fagin tells his story to his creator Charles Dickens, a story that in some ways parallels Oliver Twist’s own. Eisner weaves a tapestry of 19th century England, painting a truer portrait of the Ashkenazi Jews who populated London. Ultimately, it is the wrongful stereotypes perpetuated on a popular literary character that drive both Eisner and the book. Towards the end of ‘Fagin the Jew,’ Fagin exclaims to Dickens, ‘I asked you here to confront a man you wrongfully portrayed! Doomed to wear for eternity that warped and evil image.’ That bit of dialogue encapsulates Eisner’s mission, to shed light on, as Eisner puts it, ‘awareness of the social implications of racial stereotypes.’ “