Bad Jews and Other Stories (Bison Book)

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9780803293120: Bad Jews and Other Stories (Bison Book)
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Bad Jews and Other Stories is a nuanced and comic vision of life, love, and spiritual adventurism among the determinedly secular class of contemporary American Jews. Separated from the character-building hardships endured by their parents and grandparents, unable to find a faith of their own or for that matter to believe in much of anything at all, the characters of Bad Jews and Other Stories wander through the moral landscape of their lives in a loopy version of the Children of Israel’s meandering way home. Along the way they suffer a range of antic, often absurd misadventures. And as often as not they find redemption as well as disaster.

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Review:

In Gerald Shapiro's second collection of short fiction, the protagonists aren't bad people, exactly--they're just bad Jews, the kind who haven't darkened a synagogue door in decades, who in childhood endured Hebrew school as if it were one of the 10 biblical plagues. When Kenneth Rosenthal sets out to paint the plagues, in fact, he ends up adding two extra ones: "Call Waiting" and "Lack of Available Parking." Needless to say, the addition enrages the backers of the Kissner Prize for Jewish Art, which Rosenthal wins in spite of his overwhelming obscurity. ("Oregon! What an ironic place to live!" cries one of the judges.) Ad man Leo Spivak, on the other hand, sees himself as merely one more in "a long line of bad Jews, an age-old dynasty of skeptics and know-nothings, eaters of pork chops and treyf..." Nonetheless, in the title story he gives his father what's pitched to him as a "traditional" Jewish funeral, and in the process of reciting the Kaddish finds within himself a "bittersweet well of memory": "He could hum along, at least, and that had to count for something."

Meanwhile, in "At the Great Divide" and "Shifman in Paradise," Spivak's coworker plays tough after a diagnosis of cancer. (Who knew Hodgkin's disease could be such a knee-slapper? Turns out Shifman's spleen is one of those "optional organs," as his doctor puts it: "You have a spleen? Fine! You don't have a spleen? Fine! No problem!") The patient's dirty little secret, however, is that he is actually enjoying himself--especially since his illness allows him easy access to the Teutonic charms of Greta Braunschweig. Previously, "if he touched her in anything resembling an intimate spot, she'd fix him with a dark Gestapo-like glare that made Shifman want to cry, 'My papers are in order!'" Now he finds himself missing her old ways, which made him feel more Jewish than he ever had in his life: "Who needed mumbled, unintelligible prayers to the Almighty and a bunch of boring lectures about ancient history, when you could get genuine firsthand persecution?"

If these heroes share anything, it's that they feel most Jewish under duress. Illness, anti-Semitism, death, a sharp blow to the head from a garden rake--any of these are enough to drive them into the arms of their ancestors. Shapiro, obviously, is a very funny writer, but he also offers up moments of surprising pathos, pitch-perfect for the stories they inhabit: flocks of homing pigeons "floating up into the sky like ashes" before remembering their way home; the painting Rosenthal does in a dream, in which his ex strains to hold back Abraham's murdering arm; Spivak's apology to his wife, beamed through the Flaxman Voice Transformer Deluxe so that he sounds like a choked-up Gregory Peck. Shapiro may have the timing of a borscht-belt comedian, but his heart is conspicuously in the right place. If anyone can make slapstick a convincing agent of moral redemption, he's the man. --Mary Park

From the Inside Flap:

"Brimming with keen insight into the psyches of hilarious, even lovable, losers, the wacky brilliance of these remarkable stories marks Shapiro as a writer to watch."—Publishers Weekly (starred review).

"Bad Jews marks the emergence of another original voice on the contemporary Jewish American literary scene—a voice that registers in often richly comic and profoundly moving ways."—Forward.

"Gerald Shapiro casts an incisive eye over his contemporaries."—New York Times Book Review.

"Shapiro shows his readers the way home both emotionally and spiritually with his abiding compassion and tightly wound humor."—Booklist.

Bad Jews and Other Stories is a nuanced and comic vision of life, love, and spiritual adventurism among the determinedly secular class of contemporary American Jews. Separated from the character-building hardships endured by their parents and grandparents, unable to find a faith of their own or for that matter to believe in much of anything at all, the characters of Bad Jews and Other Stories wander through the moral landscape of their lives in a loopy version of the Children of Israel’s meandering way home. Along the way they suffer a range of antic, often absurd misadventures. And as often as not they find redemption as well as disaster.

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9781581950120: Bad Jews and Other Stories

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ISBN 10:  1581950128 ISBN 13:  9781581950120
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Book Description University of Nebraska Press. Paperback. Condition: New. 325 pages. Dimensions: 8.0in. x 6.0in. x 0.7in.Bad Jews and Other Stories is a nuanced and comic vision of life, love, and spiritual adventurism among the determinedly secular class of contemporary American Jews. Separated from the character-building hardships endured by their parents and grandparents, unable to find a faith of their own or for that matter to believe in much of anything at all, the characters of Bad Jews and Other Stories wander through the moral landscape of their lives in a loopy version of the Children of Israels meandering way home. Along the way they suffer a range of antic, often absurd misadventures. And as often as not they find redemption as well as disaster. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780803293120

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