Monday, February 7, 2011

Promised Lands - Book Review / Jewish Times

For those asking the proverbial question, “Where are the next crop of great Jewish writers?” the answer is within the pages of this book.

Derek Rubin is to be applauded for assembling a group of highly talented, fiction writers, who’ve each contributed their unique voice to the proposed theme of Promised Land and how that idea, in his words, “continues to shape the collective consciousness of contemporary American Jews.”

Archetypically, Promised Land is a notion wide enough to encompass a vast array of interpretations by each of these creative authors, yet it also offers them a starting place from which to invent their imaginary tale.

While some of the writers are more famous than others, all of them express, a variation on a universal theme and provide a “mosaic” on it.

First in the line-up, Dara Horn knocks it out of the village in her piece “Shtetl World”, where she concocts a theme park in Western Massachusetts based on the now vanished setting of an Eastern European shtetl. Masterfully, she’s able to infuse irony within the confines of what is a haunting environment.

In another section of the book, the land of Israel provides a subject to ruminate on and in Joan Legant’s hands, she analyzes the healing nature it offers a woman who defended herself from a brutal attack.

Toward the end, the theme widens to encompass the illusory and physically unobtainable idea of Promised Land. In Jonathan Rosen’s “The True World” a reporter goes off on a quest to interview a deceased Saul Bellow, traveling first to a ghoulish Ellis Island and then onto the netherworld where he encounters the late Henry Roth who serves as his guide.

Importantly, in a category largely dominated by men for the past sixty-years, this collection exemplifies the significant rise women have attained, with thirteen of the twenty-three voices being female writers.

Mr. Rubin, like his previous book, “On Who We Are: On Being and (Not Being) a Jewish American Writer”, provides us a substantial compilation that signifies and reflects the moment and zeitgeist of our generation.