How did Humphrey Bogart end up telling Lauren Bacall a Talmudic story in the film Key Largo, and what does that have to do with Plato’s theory of recollection—or American Jewish assimilation? Precisely what poem of Robert Frost’s inspired Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and how did Walter Benjamin learn about the remarkable stones of Sinai? Abraham Socher wears his learning lightly. These witty and original essays embody the spirit of the liberal arts, but the highlight of this collection may be his devastating account of the illiberal arts at work in Oberlin College, where he taught for eighteen years.
Abraham Socher is the editor of the Jewish Review of Books, which he founded, and a professor emeritus of Jewish Studies and Religion at Oberlin College. His essays have appeared in Commentary, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Times Literary Supplement, the Wall Street Journal, and his own magazine, the Jewish Review of Books. His edition of the Autobiography of Solomon Maimon (Princeton University Press) was a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award. Socher lives in Cleveland, Ohio.