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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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A bumper harvest of books from all over

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When Beth Kaplan’s Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin first came out in hardcover several years ago, a review in these pages lauded it as a “wonderful and meticulously researched book” and concluded: “Although Finding the Jewish Shakespeare does not convince us that Gordin deserves the epithet of ‘Jewish Shakespeare,’ it easily demonstrates that he has found the biographer he deserves, and shall certainly find no better.”

A great-granddaughter of Gordin, Toronto resident Beth Kaplan wrote the book as a labour of love and used it as her master’s thesis in creative writing. Also praised by Aaron Lansky, Tony Kushner and other notables, the book was recently released in paperback by Syracuse University Press, making it accessible to a new audience of readers. Finding the Jewish Shakespeare should be essential reading for everyone interested in Yiddish theatre, past and present.

Beth Kaplan lives in a heritage home in Cabbagetown and teaches memoir and personal essay writing at both the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. She maintains a blog of her creative writing (www.bethkaplan.ca) and recently published Yours Truly: a Book of the Blog, a collection of her online pieces. The book came into being after some of her readers suggested she put her online chronicle into more permanent form. “Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose? I wondered. A blog’s advantage is its fluid immediacy; could that up-to-the-minute zap translate to print? And yet, though I love and depend on my little white laptop MacZine, books will always mean much more. A book is a perfect package of thought and feeling, just the right heft to slip into a pocket, open on the beach or in the bathtub, read in bed. The only battery a book needs is the reader’s brain.”

The author writes of her own personal world. She discusses art, literature, music, politics, writing and other topics. The prose offers realistic characters and incidents. Although her entries won’t appeal to a universal audience and may be of most interest to a limited range of readers, Kaplan writes well. Niche books like this one may be the future of book publishing.

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