Prize-winning novelist Jay Neugeboren’s third collection of short stories focuses on Jews in various states of exile and expatriation—strangers in strange lands, far from home. These dozen tales, by an author whose stories have been selected for more than fifty anthologies, including Best American Short Stories and O. Henry Prize Stories, span the twentieth century and vividly capture brief moments in the lives of their characters: a rabbi in a small town in New England struggling to tend to his congregation and ...
Prize-winning novelist Jay Neugeboren’s third collection of short stories focuses on Jews in various states of exile and expatriation—strangers in strange lands, far from home. These dozen tales, by an author whose stories have been selected for more than fifty anthologies, including Best American Short Stories and O. Henry Prize Stories, span the twentieth century and vividly capture brief moments in the lives of their characters: a rabbi in a small town in New England struggling to tend to his congregation and himself, retirees who live in Florida but dream of Brooklyn, a boy at a summer camp in upstate New York learning about the Holocaust for the first time, Russians living in Massachusetts with the family who helped them immigrate. In “The Other End of the World,” an American soldier who has survived life in a Japanese prisoner of war camp grieves for members of his family murdered in a Nazi death camp, and in “Poppa’s Books” a young boy learns to share his father’s passion for the rare books that represent the Old World. “This Third Life” tells of a divorced woman who travels across Germany searching for new meaning in her life after her children leave home, while both “His Violin” and “The Golden Years” explore the plight of elderly Jews, displaced from New York City to retirement communities in Florida, who struggle with memory, madness, and mortality.
Set in various times and places, these poignant stories are all tales of personal exile that also illuminate that greater diaspora—geographical, emotional, or spiritual—in which many of us, whether Jews or non-Jews, live.
From Ukraine to Brooklyn and from Brooklyn to western Massachusetts and Florida, wandering Jews stray far from their geographical, cultural and spiritual homes in Neugeboren's assured third collection of stories (after Corky's Brother and Don't Worry About the Kids). His characters exhibit complex symptoms of their displacement, self-imposed or otherwise, in these tales about memory and dislocation, many of which are framed as reminiscences. In "Poppa's Books," one of the collection's most moving stories, two sons, age five and eight, are buffeted between their immigrant parents, an impoverished book peddler who was an honored and learned man in the old country and a woman warped with bitterness over her husband's failure to achieve the American dream. A desolate, modern-day Amherst, Mass., is the setting for "Good in Bed," in which a middle-aged, Brooklyn-born academic finds comfort in the arms of an Italian-Catholic grad student when his gentile wife demands a divorce. In "Lev Kogan's Journey," Neugeboren eloquently captures another Massachusetts man's conflicted sense of peoplehood when a charming Soviet refusenik seduces him and his family in more ways than one. Though a few pieces (e.g., the title story) read as more labored and self-conscious, this is an evocative collection from a confident storyteller. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
An uneven third collection from Neugeboren, author of seven novels and two memoirs (Open Heart: A Patient's Story of Life-Saving Medicine and Life-Giving Friendship, 2003, etc.). A gushing, memoirish preface about "the making of stories" and an extended Note on the Dedication (to a long-lost relative) mar the opening and foreshadow the volume's virtues and flaws. The best of the dozen stories ("Good in Bed," about a "word-smart" professor in the preliminary rounds of a divorce; "His Violin," about a denizen of Century Village in Palm Beach who passes along a family secret in gratitude to his favorite nephew, a lawyer who handled the details of his brother's funeral; and "Poppa's Books," about a narrator who shows how much he treasures his immigrant father's precious library, only to be chastised by his mother) are cleanly written and close to the bone. Others are disjointed, unfocused and sentimental, like "The American Sun & Wind Moving Company," about a young man who's out of his depth as an auteur in the family enterprise of making a movie near an icy lake in Fort Lee, N.J., in November 1915; and "The Golden Years," about two brothers visiting the set of a film being made in their Florida retirement "village." The story of a "profoundly inhibited" 40-something divorcee keeps a promise to herself to visit the death camps if she and her children "survived one another" after her husband left ("This Third Life") is both ambitious and yet slight. The title piece follows a rabbi through a day as he deals with a variety of dilemmas while bearing the knowledge that he and his wife have had a bitter battle. He renews his faith in the teachings of the Torah, opens his mind and then his heart tohis wife and community in a transformation that reminds us what a master storyteller Neugeboren can be. As is, not Neugeboren's best, though a judicious pruning might have helped.
JAY NEUGEBOREN is the author of fourteen books, including two previous collections of prize-winning stories, Corky’s Brother and Don’t Worry About the Kids, the award-winning novels The Stolen Jew and Before My Life Began, and two award-winning books of nonfiction, Transforming Madness and the nationally acclaimed memoir Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival. He lives and writes in New York City.
News from the New American Diaspora
The Other End of the World
Good in Bed
The Imported Man
Have You Visited Israel?
This Third Life
Lev Kogan's Journey
The Golden Years
The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company