Another Slight Chapter in the Story of Exile

June 15, 2005 | , , ,

Raymond + Hannah: A Love Story
By Stephen Marche

Harcourt. 212 pages. $14.

One of the oldest old saws about Jewish dislocation is attributed to Yehuda HaLevi, a physician and Hebrew poet who lived in medieval Spain. “My heart is in the east, and I am in the furthermost west,” he wrote, and over the centuries this line of verse has been echoed, appropriated, twisted, and alluded to by Jews in every corner of the globe to express their feelings about exile and home.

Stephen Marche’s debut novel, Raymond + Hannah, offers the latest spin on this classic plaint. (more…)

A Fabulous, Bald Jew

May 9, 2004 |

Collected Stories, Volume III
By Isaac Bashevis Singer
Edited by Ilan Stavans
Library of America. 899 pages. $35.

The Anglo-Jewish author and playwright Israel Zangwill, who was once perhaps the most famous Jew in the world, remarked around the turn of the last century that Yiddish literature was “rich in men of talent, and even genius, whose names have rarely reached the outside world.”

Oy, how times have changed. (more…)

An Elegant 10/10

May 29, 2003 |

The Middle of the Night: Stories
By Daniel Stolar
Picador. 244 pages. $23.

When Olympic judges score divers and figure skaters, they award points based on the level of difficulty of the routine. I propose that the same concept be applied to our judging of fiction, with a reverse twist: Whereas in athletics high levels of difficulty are associated with flashy eye-catching spins and leaps, in fiction it is the sedate writers who deserve bonus points.

If you’re willing to accept this judging system, allow me to introduce you to a writer who scores an elegant 10 out of 10. Daniel Stolar’s stories, collected in The Middle of the Night, are not at all flashy, but in their quiet understanding of human relations they achieve admirable emotional effects. (more…)