Inside the Hor­net’s Head: An Anthol­o­gy of Jew­ish Amer­i­can Writing

  • Review
By – July 9, 2012
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.

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