Best Bathroom Reading


According to Jewish law, it’s inadvisable to read holy materials, or even mention God’s name, in a bathroom.

On the other hand, there’s a classic rabbinical admonition never to waste a second. According to one apocryphal story, the famed 18th-century Rabbi Elijah of Vilna reconciled these competing values by writing his book of mathematical philosophy, Ail Meshulash, while on the can.

In the same vein, for the past twelve years, Time Out New York music writer Jay Ruttenberg has written and compiled a magazine, The Lowbrow Reader, that’s billed as “bathroom reading for intellectuals.” Highlights from quarterly magazine were recently collected in the just-released book The Lowbrow Reader Reader.

The Lowbrow Reader Reader
 isn’t all Jewish stories, but many are, including a piece on the comedic genius of Adam Sandler, the story of an uncomfortable date with Jackie Mason (“Dinner with Jackie is like falling into an Old World Jewish fortune cookie….Imagine unspooling a Dead Sea Scroll of Yiddish-inflected commentary from the inner helix of a rugelach”), and biblical-minded cartoons by David Berman, the singer for the band Silver Jews. It’s not officially a Jewish publication, but, written mainly by Jews, featuring Jews, and with a distinctly Jewish sense of humor, it might as well be.

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