In the Catskills: A Century of Jewish Experience in

In the Catskills: A Century of Jewish Experience in "The Mountains"

by Phil Brown
     
 

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Through fiction, memoir, music, and art, this book offers a glimpse of the Catskills experience over a century and assesses its continuing impact on American culture. The book features contributions from such writers as Isaac Bashevis Singer and Vivian Gornick; and original contributions from historians, sociologists, and scholars of American and Judaic studies.…  See more details below

Overview

Through fiction, memoir, music, and art, this book offers a glimpse of the Catskills experience over a century and assesses its continuing impact on American culture. The book features contributions from such writers as Isaac Bashevis Singer and Vivian Gornick; and original contributions from historians, sociologists, and scholars of American and Judaic studies.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
The world's first milk line, the Midland Railroad, ran from New York to the Catskill foothills in 1870. According to In the Catskills, a collection of writings about the region edited by Phil Brown, the train was largely responsible for the influx of middleclass Jewish families into the area's dairy farms. Brown's anthology examines the area's religious and ethnic dynamics, from an "anti-Hebrew crusade" in 1889 to the emergence in the nineteen-forties of a bungalow community that became known as the Borscht Belt. A history of another favorite family destination, Lawrence Squeri's Better in the Poconos , also focuses on resort spots made accessible by public transportation -- "gravity" railroads gave New Yorkers a chance to visit the Pennsylvania mountains and resorts with names like Paradise Stream, Vacation Valley, and Pocono Hay-Ven.

During the fifties, three young writers beat lonely retreats to Washington's North Cascades; the photographer John Suiter's Poets on the Peaks chronicles the "rucksack revolution" summers of Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Jack Kerouac, each of whom worked as fire lookouts among the mountain hemlock and western red cedar. To get there, they needed more than a station wagon: Snyder travelled to his cabin outpost by way of funicular, tugboat, skyhook crane (which hoisted him to the top of the Ross Dam), and then a day's walk through the woods. Kerouac spent weeks reading the Diamond Sutra and writing poems. He remarked on the calm of the Japanese haiku poets, who "live in what they call 'Do-Nothing-Huts' and are sad, then gay, then sad, then gay, like sparrows and burros and nervous American writers." (Lauren Porcaro)

Publishers Weekly
The culture of the Catskills the wide range of hotels, bungalows, rooming houses and elaborate resorts in the mountains in New York State that catered to a mainly Jewish clientele has become, in the broadest sense, American culture: Danny Kaye, Milton Berle, Joey Adams, Mel Brooks, Sid Caesar, Jerry Lewis, Tony Curtis and many others got their start there. This anthology of 34 essays, memoirs, fictions and songs (illustrated with wonderful, evocative photographs) conveys some of the religious, social, historic, sexual and ethnic complexity that "the mountains," as it was called, embodied. Brown (Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat's Memoirs of the Great Jewish Resort Area) has been the unofficial historian of this part of the Jewish-American experience, and this anthology gives a nice, if superficial, taste of the literature. There are engaging popular memoirs (like an excerpt from Joey Adams's 1966 autobiography, The Borscht Belt, and surprising fiction pieces, such as one from Abraham Cahan's classic 1927 novel, The Rise of David Levinsky, as well as the lyrics of the 1941 song "Shoot the Shtrudel to Me Yudel!" which was dedicated to Yudel Slutzsky, owner of the Arrowhead Lodge. While Brown reprints some fascinating historical material, such as Abraham Lavender and Clarence Steinberg's "Jewish Farmers of the Catskills," which charts the start of the Jewish presence in the area and the beginnings of the resort culture, many of the pieces a chapter from Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar and one from Allegra Goodman's Kaaterskill Falls are easily available and add little. This is a great look at the history of Catskill culture for readers new to the material, but those looking for more depth will be disappointed. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Jewish Advocate
For those who once found respite from their usual activities in the Catskills, this collection of essays is a wonderful reminder. For everyone else, the book helps to provide a permanent record of an era that is a vital part of American Jewish History.

— Morton Teicher

The Jewish Week
Phil Brown's new book... is Catskills gold, a rich collection of short stories, essays, excerpts of novels and memoirs, along with vintage photographs, menus, postcards, and song lyrics. More than a nostalgic album, the book is evocative, serious, literary, and fun, too.

Providence Journal (RI)
A nostalgic pastiche of fiction, memoir, photography, art, postcards, menus, etc., celebrating Jewish resort life in the Catskills.

Newark Star-Ledger
A warm, witty and schmaltzy book.

National Post
A gripping and powerful depiction of a traumatized and emergent community engaged in the pursuit of leisure. The fiction, essays and memoirs all share a dreamlike intensity of emotion and degree of detail that create the sense that the contributors are still revisiting the Catskills in their sleep and trying to describe it when they wake.

The Jerusalem Post
Delightful.

Brandeis Review
Whether describing the history and landscape of the Catskill region, the culinary inventions, or the legendary entertainment, this anthology evokes all the flavors and memories of a bygone era.

Contemporary Sociology
Phil Brown's edited collection is a warm, charming, and valuable work. Much of the writing is simply gorgeous, a mixture of meticulously remembered details and the wisdom of the passing years.

— Paul Buhle

Jewish Advocate - Morton Teicher
For those who once found respite from their usual activities in the Catskills, this collection of essays is a wonderful reminder. For everyone else, the book helps to provide a permanent record of an era that is a vital part of American Jewish History.

Contemporary Sociology - Paul Buhle
Phil Brown's edited collection is a warm, charming, and valuable work. Much of the writing is simply gorgeous, a mixture of meticulously remembered details and the wisdom of the passing years.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231504409
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
07/06/2002
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
367
File size:
17 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Phil Brown is a professor of sociology and environmental studies at Brown University. He is co-founder and President of the Catskills Institute (a historical preservation society) and author of Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat's Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area.


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