These two dozen stories, all written since 1967, are linked both by the religious background of their authors and by reiterated themes that are arguably the special province of Jewish fiction. The collection contains work by Max Apple, Saul Bellow, Lore Segal, Michael Chabon, Mark Helprin, Bernard Malamud, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, Philip Roth and Isaac Bashevis Singer, among others, and the writing is generally exceptional. One can find acerbic and funny observations: ``Many of Donna's Hollywood friends spoke with a schmoozing accent whether they were Jewish or not, even ex-cheerleaders from Ames, Iowa, and men named Lars,'' says a character in Michael Chabon's ``S stet no punctuation Angel.'' Others offer wry contemplations. Allen Hoffman's narrator in ``Building Blocks'' ruminates: ``And if the Temple had not been destroyed, what would Einstein have been, a camel driver in Beersheba?'' Troubling, though, is Solotaroff's introductory essay, ``The Open Community,'' in which he contends that 1967 ``marked a turning point in American Jewish consciousness and identification'' because of the Six-Day War. Even if it were true that Israel ``became the religion of American Jews, the transcendent object of their politics and philanthropy and pilgrimages''--and not all would agree with Solotaroff here--he gets into murky waters by proposing that American Jewish fiction was similarly transformed. As a collection of frequently brilliant short stories, this volume succeeds. But there is something contrived about the editor's agenda, and one is left wondering how the individual writers feel about the theory their work has been enlisted to support. (Nov.)
This collection of 24 stories written since 1967 by American Jewish writers of several generations taps a deep cultural vein. These are stories of personality and morality, family strengths and weaknesses, and spiritual and intellectual contradiction--tough little dramas full of talk, maneuvering, emotion, and humor. The vanguard is well represented with powerful tales by Saul Bellow, E. L. Doctorow, Bernard Malamud, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, and Philip Roth. The second wave includes shrewd stories by Michael Chabon, Allegra Goodman, and Lynne Sharon Schwartz. Key issues relevant to Jewish life over the past 25 years underlie these fleet, resonant stories: questions of interracial interaction between Jews and blacks or Latinos, generational differences in attitudes toward Judaism and assimilation, Israeli politics, feminism, and the need to keep memories of the Holocaust precise and meaningful.