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Sunday December 21, 2014
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Michael Wex

 

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Now comes Michael Wex, scholar, stand-up comedian, and best-selling author of Born to Kvetch and Just Say Nu. Riding--and, one could argue, helping to foster--a resurgence of Yiddish that Rosten could hardly have imagined, Wex has brought the language and the culture that spawned it further into the spotlight for those who are interested in learning about Yiddish, for those who want to learn to speak it--and even for those who just want hilarious, highly entertaining reading.

Wex's strong suit, like Rosten's, is his terrific sense of humor, but he backs his comedy with an unparalleled understanding of all matters Yiddish. He has the chutzpah to invent a transliteration system for Yiddish that is at times at odds with the one created by the hallowed YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. It's emblematic of his nerve, and of his scholarship.

But he is funny, whether talking about relatives--"You can't live with them, you hardly ever get presents without them"--or describing an unappetizing dish that has all "the sex appeal of Don Knotts in a rainstorm."

In time-honored Yiddish tradition, he finds amusing ways to look at life's difficulties. "Tsoores (troubles) are to Yiddish what water is to fish, the difference being that no one has ever made a serious experiment to see if Jews could live without troubles."

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