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Fighting Bulls, Fighting Poverty

Earl Shorris is this week’s Shivah Star

Marc Tracy
June 07, 2012
Earl Shorris 20 years ago.(W.W. Norton/NYT)
Earl Shorris 20 years ago.(W.W. Norton/NYT)

Each week, we select the most interesting Jewish obituary. This week, it’s that of Earl Shorris, who died late last month at 75. At first glance, Shorris seems a specific type, if an unusually successful specimen thereof: the Jewish “social critic” who wrote books and articles (many in Harper’s) that cited philosophers to decry Western civilization’s slippage into decadence. But Shorris was a man of action, and in several ways. He didn’t just write that poverty was bad, he fought poverty, creating the Clemente Course in the Humanities to educate poor youth in the East Village in the classics; the course has spread to dozens of other cities. And as a young man, he acted in a decidedly different variety: like Sidney Franklin before him, he was a Jewish bullfighter in Mexico; in his novel based on his experiences, the hero is named Sol Feldman.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.