Stories on being Jewish set in various parts of the world. In the title story, a sex-starved husband in New York is authorized by his rabbi to visit a prostitute, In This Way We Are Wise is on the nonchalant attitude of the inhabitants of Jerusalem to terrorism, while Reb Kringle is on a Jew who works as Santa Claus in a department store.
I, personally, know next to nothing about Jewish culture. I have read next to nothing on the subject, and what I do know comes from popular media and is probably inaccurate. I can tell, however, that the details and characterizations in this work are extremely accurate and draw the reader into identification with characters who are about as disparate from him or her as an ant is from a water buffalo.
The first two stories are set a little more than half a century ago and as such, are heartbreaking. What shines through in these two tales is the indomitable spirit of the characters when faced with certain death. The next few tales are more contemporary and slightly more light-hearted. In fact, I would not be at all surprised to find out that they are all organized chronologically.
I enjoyed "Reb Kringle' the most. "The Wig" I found almost silly. "Reunion" was deeply moving. I would not be at all surprised if the final narrative, "In This Way We Are Wise" is autobiographical. I don't want to give more of a synopsis in this review because I would encourage everyone to experience this collection for themselves. It is poignant and fascinating.
Jewish people are not by definition more interesting than other people. A
The first two stories are excellent. They are recognizable, very well-written, and deal with some of the major themes in the literature of Jewish writers on the Twentieth century. The first story in the collection "The Twenty-seventh Man" is reminiscent of Kafka, descrbing the fate of Jewish intellectuals under Stalin, while the second story, "The Tumblers" deals with the holocaust. Both stories are original, and immediately accessible. To some extent that is also true of the title story (number eight in the collection), "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges", which end with on a "funny" note. The other stories miss the characteristic accessibility through familiarity with the stories as belonging to the genre of Jewish (-American) literature.
The Twenty-seventh Man - Twenty-Seven Jewish writers are rounded up by Stalin's secret police and held together
The Tumblers - A group of Jewish ghetto dwellers escape the concentration camp by posing as acrobats.
Reunion - An odd man is confined to a rest home after an embarrassing incident at synagogue. There he meets the brother of his Rabbi and is headed for an ugly confrontation and family fallout.
The Wig - An wig-maker becomes obsessed with having the perfect wig. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she regrets all she has given up and becomes fixated on this one outward adornment that will recapture her youth and preserve her hope.
The Gilgul of Park Avenue - A wealthy WASP has the unexpected epiphany that he is a Jew. Naturally both his wife and his therapist are at their wit's end.
Reb Kringle - A rabbi poses as Santa Claus every year to make ends meet.
The Last One Way - An aging woman in a thirty-six year marriage has been seeking a divorce for the last eighteen. As time passes she becomes more desperate, even considering the murder of her unrelenting husband.
For the Relief of Unbearable Urges - A man with a sexually reluctant wife receives a special dispensation from his rabbi to visit a prostitute.
In This Way We Are Wise - A young man in Jerusalem grows contemplative after a terrorist attack happens very close to his cafe.
"Reb Kringle" tell of a devoutly
I finished this book being terribly depressed because "In This Way We Ate Wise" was the last story. I guess this could be considered either good or bad. It could be good in that the story is very precise and moving and demonstrates how well Englander writes. It could also be bad because this is the ongoing state of precariousness for my beloved city of Jerusalem.