Bel Kaufman

… still very much alive and entertaining, as we can read in today’s NYT:

At 100 years old, Ms. Kaufman [author of Up the Down Staircase (1965)] is still shpritzing jokes, Jewish and otherwise, which is in her genes. Her grandfather was the great Yiddish storyteller Sholem Aleichem, a writer who was able to squeeze heartbreaking humor out of the most threadbare deprivation and wove the bittersweet Tevye stories that became the source for “Fiddler on the Roof.”

This year, Ms. Kaufman did something more than tell jokes. She became one of the few adjunct professors in her age cohort and taught a course on Jewish humor at Hunter College, her alma mater. One of the jokes the class dissected:

“The Frenchman says: ‘I’m tired and thirsty. I must have wine.’ The German says: ‘I’m tired and thirsty. I must have beer.’ The Jew says: ‘I’m tired and thirsty. I must have diabetes.’ ”

Nice play on the ambiguity of must and of have, but also for me a wonderful recollection of my stepmother, Ruth A. Power, who many years ago wrote Kaufman an appreciative letter about Up the Down Staircase, starting a correspondence between the two of them, became her friend, and eventually visited her (from California’s Central Coast) in New York.

One Response to “Bel Kaufman”

  1. Tané Tachyon Says:

    Up the Down Staircase was one of the books that everyone seemed to be reading when I was in middle school (1971-1973).

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