Scrib­blers on the Roof: Con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can Jew­ish Fiction

Melvin Jules Buki­et; David G. Roskies, eds.
  • Review
By – May 25, 2012

The 20 writ­ers fea­tured in this col­lec­tion of short sto­ries are among the very best of con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish writ­ers. The title comes from a pop­u­lar read­ing series on the roof of Anshe Chesed, a syn­a­gogue on New York’s Upper West Side where the sto­ries were first read aloud. The result is a ver­i­ta­ble cor­nu­copia of styles and gen­res. From Pearl Abraham’s fan­tas­ti­cal Sev­en Fat Brides,” about one bridegroom’s courtship of sev­en sis­ters, to Sonia Pilcer’s winc­ing­ly painful Paskud­nyak,” a quest for recog­ni­tion by the teenage daugh­ter of Holo­caust sur­vivors, there is a real taste of what is cur­rent­ly being writ­ten and thought about in Jew­ish lit­er­ary circles. 

In his after­ward David Roskies explains that the writ­ers were asked to keep their read­ings to less than 30 min­utes, so the sto­ries are for the most part extreme­ly short. This is not a crit­i­cism; it allows for a greater num­ber of authors to be includ­ed. In his intro­duc­tion Melvin Buki­et notes the dif­fi­cul­ty with which the edi­tors weed­ed out con­trib­u­tors. Myra Goldberg’s Gifts” is a mere three pages but the vivid­ly drawn moth­er-daugh­ter rela­tion­ship is a grenade of guilt tossed at the read­er. Jonathan Rosen’s First Date” is actu­al­ly a chap­ter from his mar­velous nov­el Joy Comes in the Morn­ing, pub­lished sev­er­al years ago. It would have been nice to find some­thing new from him here. Nev­er­the­less, this is a var­ied and provoca­tive col­lec­tion, a won­der­ful way to dis­cov­er new writ­ers of Jew­ish fiction.

Sara Leopold Spin­nell is a co-founder of Trav​elu​jah​.com, a web­site that pro­motes Chris­t­ian trav­el to Israel. She lives in New York City with her hus­band and two children.

Discussion Questions