There is in this intriguingly diverse collection of Jewish American writing from 1950 to 2005 something for every taste; a few selections seem lacking in taste. Charyn’s introduction surveys the material and helps readers interpret it; brief biographical notes on the 19 authors are included. The anthology should have widespread appeal to readers curious about the subjects, including “self” and “strategic coping,” that have attracted Jewish writers. Some of the selections are excerpts from famous novels: Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March (about which Charyn has much to say in his introduction), Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep. One is a classic story deserving preservation: Delmore Schwartz’s “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” (1938). Others may remain in our collective literary memory: Anzia Yezierska’s quaint “Hester Street” (1920), Bernard Malamud’s “The Magic Barrel” (1958), and Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” (1961). Among the other important writers here are Woody Allen, Allen Ginsberg, Grace Paley, Herbert Gold, Stanley Elkin, and Charyn himself.
Samuel I. Bellman is professor emeritus at California State Polytechnic University of Pomona. He has been writing on Jewish American writers since 1959.