Rosen, Jonathan 1963-
Rosen, Jonathan 1963-
Office—Forward Newspaper, 45 E. 33rd St., New York, NY 10016.
Founder and former editor of Forward magazine's Arts and Culture section; Forward Foundation (a non-profit organization devoted to recognizing and promoting American Jewish culture), former executive director.
(With Anne Rosen and Norma Rosen) A Family Passover, photographs by Laurence Salzman, Jewish Publication Society of America (Philadelphia, PA), 1980.
Eve's Apple (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey between Worlds (nonfiction), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2000.
Joy Comes in the Morning (novel), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.
Also series editor, "Jewish Encounters Book Series," a collaboration between Schocken Books and Nextbook. org. Contributor to periodicals, including Vanity Fair, New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, and New York Times Magazine.
Jonathan Rosen won wide critical acclaim for his 1997 debut novel, Eve's Apple. Drawing on an Old Testament image, Rosen creates a modern-day tale about physical and psychological hunger. Narrated by Joseph, the story involves his girlfriend Ruth's struggle with anorexia. As Joseph tries to understand the roots of Ruth's eating disorder, he uncovers his own "darker desires," according to New York Times reviewer Richard Bernstein. The young couple becomes a metaphor for the social ills that underlie the impulse of self-mutilation.
Recent college grads living in New York, Joseph and Ruth search for purpose in the big city. Joseph teaches Russian immigrants while Ruth attends art school. The largest impediment to their happiness is Ruth's eating disorder. Wall Street Journal reviewer Thane Rosenbaum believed that by using contemporary Jewish characters, Rosen "is trying to make some larger, post-Holocaust point about how succeeding generations of Jews—as they get further and further away from their origins—are still destined to suffer the privations that plagued them in the past."
While Ruth's eating disorder is the central topic of the book, the story is told from Joseph's point of view. As Joseph grapples with Ruth's problem, he conflates his own desire for knowledge with genuine love for Ruth. As in its biblical counterpart, the theme of knowledge, both its pursuit and its forbidden nature, plays a large role in this story. Joseph becomes obsessed with uncovering the causes of Ruth's obsession with food, and embarks on a research quest in the New York Public Library, where he "gorges" on case studies and medical journals. He also secretly reads Ruth's diary, which records her daily bouts with binging and starvation. Eve's Apple, according to Bernstein, "is a quietly powerful exploration of a theme as old as the story of Adam and Eve, [which] Mr. Rosen, with his aptitude for subtle psychological examination, has transformed into an absorbing, intelligent tale of love and the mysteriousness of the other."
Joseph's personal struggle to understand Ruth's illness resonates on a human scale. Ruth's sickness is a symptom of a host of social ills, including "a bottomless hunger that has more to do with love than food and where the soul has been cast aside in favor of ever evolving ways to worship the flesh," according to Rosenbaum. More easily conferred is agreement about Jonathan Rosen's writing abilities. Rosenbaum commented favorably on Rosen's talent, which, the reviewer noted, is evident in his "crisp and glittering" prose and "a rhythmic energy … that delves into the twin mysteries of passion and illness." Publishers Weekly reviewer Sybil S. Steinberg praised Rosen's "careful and astute" descriptions. The difficult subject matter coupled with its capable treatment by Rosen make for an "intellectually provocative" tale, according to Bernstein.
In The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey between Worlds, originally intended as an elegy for his maternal grandmother, Rosen reflects on his Jewish heritage and examines the relationship between religious tradition and contemporary technology. "We learn from Rosen's book that the basis of the resemblance between the Talmud and the Internet lies in the fact that everything can be found in either of them if you know how and where to look," observed New York Times Book Review contributor Frank Kermode. "I've been told by people who know Talmud much better than me that their Talmudic expectations, the idea that everything is linked, the interrupting referential style, makes visiting the Web natural," Rosen told interviewer Rebecca Brown on RebeccasReads.com. "I'm not enough of a Talmud adept to pretend that I look at the world from an authentically Talmudical perspective. And yet I suppose I'm arguing that there's something in the culture I inherited that makes the fragmented world of the Web oddly comfortable."
In addition, The Talmud and the Internet contains the author's musings on such diverse subjects as Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, John Milton's Paradise Lost, and a visit to the Scottish mansion where his father spent World War II after escaping from Vienna. "In fact Mr. Rosen writes not one or two ideas but a whole sparkling shower of them; and contesting a few is as exhilarating as agreeing with most," remarked Richard Eder in the New York Times. "Beneath the ideas, though, and what gives this book what I venture to call its soul, is his interrogation of himself as American and Jew." "The book reveals far more about the author than it does about the Talmud or the Net," stated a critic in Publishers Weekly. Eder concluded that Rosen "is writing a kind of spiritual memoir, and he does it wittily, suggestively and with a fine rambling grace."
Joy Comes in the Morning, Rosen's second novel, concerns Deborah Green, a young female rabbi who is filled with doubts and loneliness. While working as a hospital chaplain, Deborah meets Henry Friedman, a Holocaust survivor suffering the effects of a debilitating stroke. As Henry recovers, Deborah enters into a relationship with his son, Lev, a science writer who has drifted away from his religion. Though Lev comes to terms with his roots, Deborah experiences a crisis of faith after ministering to an elderly woman with a disturbing confession. The author "writes with uncommon assurance about contemporary Judaism, whether the subject is Friedman family dynamics or the insecurities, comedies and small pleasures of everyday rabbinic life," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Donna Seaman, reviewing the novel in Booklist, stated: "Rosen has created a marvelously accessible and touching novel that is at once profoundly philosophical and simply radiant."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey between Worlds, p. 36; August 1, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of Joy Comes in the Morning, p. 1902.
Business Week, December 18, 2000, "Parallel Webs," review of The Talmud and the Internet, p. 20.
Judaism, summer, 2001, Avrum Goodblatt, review of The Talmud and the Internet, p. 372.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of Joy Comes in the Morning, p. 655.
Library Journal, August, 2000, John Moryl, review of The Talmud and the Internet, p. 112; September 1, 2004, Lisa Nussbaum, review of Joy Comes in the Morning, p. 141.
New York Times, May 7, 1997, Richard Bernstein, review of Eve's Apple, p. C19; September 15, 2000, Richard Eder, "Before High Tech, There Was a Higher Authority," review of The Talmud and the Internet, p. E39.
New York Times Book Review, October 1, 2000, Frank Kermode, "If It's Out There, It's In Here," review of The Talmud and the Internet, p. 12. Publishers Weekly, March 31, 1997, Sybil S. Steinberg, review of Eve's Apple, p. 60; July 24, 2000, review of The Talmud and the Internet, p. 89; July 12, 2004, review of Joy Comes in the Morning, p. 43.
Tikkun, November, 2000, review of The Talmud and the Internet, p. 89; January-February, 2004, Alicia Ostriker, review of Joy Comes in the Morning, p. 74.
Times Literary Supplement, March 1, 2002, Elaine Glaser, "Wanderers of the Web," review of The Talmud and the Internet, p. 11.
Wall Street Journal, April 25, 1997, Thane Rosenbaum, review of Eve's Apple.
New York State Writers Institute,http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/ (April 15, 2007), "Jonathan Rosen."
RebeccasReads.com,http://www.rebeccasreads.com/ (November 19, 2000), Rebecca Brown, "Rebecca's Interview with Jonathan Rosen."