Updated: 2011-05-27 08:01

(China Daily)

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Secrets of Cairo stash revealed

It was about 120 years ago that a cache of manuscripts - mostly in tatters - was discovered in an old synagogue in Cairo, where they had remained hidden for centuries. One early examiner of the cache described the scene as a "battlefi eld of books".

Adina Hoffman's and Peter Cole's book Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza(Nextbook/Schocken) is both heterogeneous and comprehensive.

Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits From a Jerusalem Neighborhood. Cole is a poet and translator. The book analyzes the storeroom's contents, which include letters, wills, bills of lading, prayers, marriage contracts and writs of divorce, Bibles, money orders, court depositions, business inventories, leases, magic charms and receipts.

The most recent deposits were made in the 19th century, and some date back to the 10th century.

Book exposes true villains of recession

It's hardly news that the near meltdown of the US financial system enriched a few at the expense of the rest of us. And the question "who's responsible?" is hardly new, either. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's recent report blames the usual suspects - Wall Street banks, financial regulators, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and subprime lenders - which is tantamount to blaming no one.

Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon (Times Books/Henry Holt & Company), concentrates on individuals who played key roles.

The authors, Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter and New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson and housing finance expert Joshua Rosner deftly trace the beginnings of the collapse to the mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration called for a partnership between the private sector and Fannie and Freddie to encourage home buying.

The mortgage agencies' government backing was, in effect, a valuable subsidy, which was used by Fannie's CEO, James A. Johnson, to increase home ownership while enriching himself and other executives. A 1996 study by the Congressional Budget Office found Fannie pocketed about a third of the subsidy rather than passing it on to homeowners.

Wood engraving book series out


Two recently published series are a part of a nationwide project to protect Chinese wood engraving.

The Collection of Chinese Wood Engraving Pictures includes 22 volumes, comprising 3 million words and 10,000 pictures, categorized by the types of wood used and subject matters depicted.

The Oral History Series of Chinese Wood Engraving Inheritors profiles inheritors from 19 major production areas.

"As one of China's most popular and influential art forms, wood engraving has carried rich cultural connotations through more than 1,000 years," the series' editorin-chief, Chinese Folk Literature and Art Society chairman Feng Jicai, says.

"But 10 years ago, the art form was found to be in danger of vanishing in all production areas."

Shanghai Xiaojiaochang Volume editor Zhang Wei says, "The series plays a very significant role in preserving the practice of Chinese wood engraving."

Huo Qingyou, a 6th-generation inheritor of the Yangliuqing wood engraving school, says, "It's our responsibility to protect our cultural heritage. We have to leave something to our children."

Feng says the series' publication is just a starting point. The difficult work will be in identifying works' time periods and determining where they fit in the country's rapidly transforming geographic diversity.

China Daily-New York Times


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