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Top 20 Jews In The Arts - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Philosopher and award-winning novelist, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, speaks with us for Day 15 of our feature.
By: Ashley Baylen
Published: April 25th, 2011 in Culture » Books » Interviews
Rebecca Newberger GoldsteinPic: NILL
36 Arguments For the Existence of God book coverPic: NILL

Over the next 20 days, Shalom Life will be presenting the Top 20 Jews In The Arts. One artist will be featured a day from various disciplines including visual arts, acting, writing, comedy, and music.

We sent the participating artists the same 30 questions with instructions to answer all, or just a few. Have fun learning about these fascinating individuals, and please check back daily to compare their answers. Enjoy!

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein grew up in White Plains, New York, and graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College, receiving the Montague Prize for Excellence in Philosophy, and immediately went on to graduate work at Princeton University, receiving her Ph.D. in philosophy. While in graduate school she was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship and a Whiting Foundation Fellowship.

After earning her Ph.D. she returned to her alma mater, where she taught courses in philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, the rationalists, the empiricists, and the ancient Greeks. It was some time during her tenure at Barnard that, quite to her own surprise, she used a summer vacation to write her first novel, The Mind-Body Problem.

More novels followed: The Late-Summer Passion of a Woman of Mind The Dark Sister, which received the Whiting Writer’s Award, Mazel, which received the 1995 National Jewish Book Award and the 1995 Edward Lewis Wallant Award and Properties of Light: A Novel of Love, Betrayal, and Quantum Physics. Her book of short stories, Strange Attractors, received a National Jewish Book Honor Award.

Her 2005 book Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, was featured in articles in The New Yorker and The New York Times, received numerous favourable reviews, and was named one of the best books of the year by Discover magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Sun. Goldstein’s most recent published book is, Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew who Gave Us Modernity, published in May 2006, and winner of the 2006 Koret International Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought. Her latest novel, Thirty-Six Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, was published by Pantheon Books in 2010.

In 2005 she was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2006 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Radcliffe Fellowship. In 2008, she was designated a Humanist Laureate by the International Academy of Humanism, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Emerson College, where she gave the commencement address. Goldstein has been designated Humanist of the Year 2011 by the American Humanist Association.

For more information on Rebecca, her novels and achievements, please visit www.rebeccagoldstein.com

Where do you go when your lacking inspiration?

Changing locations doesn’t make a difference. I just daydream, letting my thoughts do the travelling.

Where's your favourite place to travel to?

New York City. I was a New Yorker before I’d ever lived there, and I’m a New Yorker still, even though I no longer live there. It’s almost idolatrous to love a city as much as I love New York.

What's your favourite dish? Where do you normally get it?

I like soup. In fact, I want that as my epitaph: She liked soup.

Are you religious? Spiritual? Nothing at all?

One of the characters in my novel "36 Arguments for The Existence of God: A Work of Fiction" is described as an “atheist with a soul.” Maybe that’s what I am.

What's your favourite movie?

That’s like asking what my favourite sunset was.

TV Show?

I only watch TV when I’m in hotels. I find the station that plays “Law and Order” and just stay with it.

If you weren't working in the arts, what would you be doing?

I was a philosophy professor, and that’s what I’d still be doing.

Can you offer a piece of advice to aspiring artists?

Study beauty.

Who's your best friend?

Steven Pinker.

What's your biggest regret?

That I didn’t help my parents die a better death.

Do you play any sports?

I swim, cycle and kayak, at least in the summer. In the winter I think about swimming, cycling and kayaking.

What are you better at than most other people you know?

I think I’m good at imagining my way into other lives.

What is your biggest weakness?

Melancholy.

Do you have any vices?

Does making terrible jokes count as a vice? For example, see the answer to the next question.

Is there a quote or motto that you live by?

“Live by no motto.”

If you could work with a specific person, who would it be?

I would love to collaborate with my two daughters. Yael Goldstein Love is a novelist, Danielle Blau is a poet, and they’re both hilarious.

Tell us something about yourself we might be surprised to hear.

I’m a terrific dancer. No, really.

How would you describe your personal style?

A little bit earnest, a little bit goofy.

Where is your primary residence? Do you consider this place "home?"

I live in a loft in downtown Boston, but the place that feels the most like home is a house on Cape Cod.

Who's your favourite author?

Spinoza. I’m pretty passionate about Spinoza.

Do you prefer road trips or flying?

I love road trips.

What one word would you use to describe yourself?

Pensive.

What item do you never leave your house without?

There is no item — cell phone, keys, wallet — that I haven’t unintentionally left behind. I pride myself on never having misplaced any small child, or at least not for long.

Related articles: Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the existence of God, Mazel, New York Times, Jewish Book Award, Academy of Arts and Sciences, philosophy
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Top 20 Jews In The Arts - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Philosopher and award-winning novelist, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, speaks with us for Day 15 of our feature.

Top 20 Under 40 - David Bezmozgis

The award-winning writer has become one of Canada's most buzzed about authors

Exclusive Interview: YA Author Hannah Moskowitz

The 20-year old author of the upcoming 'Zombie Tag' talks to SL about her early success, the publishing world, and Jewish book characters

Lawyer's Search for Wallenberg Hits Bookshelves

Morris Wolff’s quest to find Holocaust hero continues

Top 20 Jews In The Arts - Andrea Seigel

Author Andrea Seigel sits down with Shalom Life for Day 19 of our feature.

Top 20 Jews In The Arts - Lisa Brown

Illustrator and Writer, Lisa Brown, chats with Shalom Life for Day 17 of our series

Top 20 Jews In The Arts - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Philosopher and award-winning novelist, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, speaks with us for Day 15 of our feature.

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