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» » Bad Jews and Other Stories (Bison Book)
Bad Jews and Other Stories (Bison Book)


Gerald Shapiro


Bad Jews and Other Stories (Bison Book)


Literature & Fiction

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1709 kb

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1754 kb

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Bison Books (April 1, 2004)




Short Stories and Anthologies



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Bad Jews and Other Stories (Bison Book) by Gerald Shapiro

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.
I didn't read every story in the collection, mainly because I was underwhelmed with those I started with. I have various problems with Shapiro's prose. Bad dialogue is one thing: some stories are worse than others. There's also a sort of disconnect between realistic human action and what Shapiro's characters do-- it doesn't seem justified by the stories, and instead comes across as Shapiro having a lack of understanding of people. There's also really no discernible hints of momentum-- the stories I read could really improve with a rewrite
Gerald Shapiro is not Bernard Malamud but he leaves me feeling the same way after reading his stories, a mixture of regret and pride. The regret comes built in, either with Jewishness or birth or both. The pride though is in finding a stance here. Shapiro's protaganist seems to do that, in his own inimitable way. I wonder if being a hero these days can possibly mean muddling through modern life with even one principle left standing. Read these stories and reflect on the balance you yourself have achieved, willy-nilly. What a silly word, willy-nilly is. I just don't know any equivalent.
If "Bad Jews" simply gave us gags like adding call waiting to the Biblical ten plagues--or if it merely had lines like "osteopathy was on a long, ignoble list of things that only non-Jews would normally get involved in--things like gambling, drinking hard liquor, and having too much fun in general"--I might have said, "Dayeynu." (That's Hebrew for "It would have been worth the price of the book"). But Shapiro gives us so much more. He combines the comic genius of Bruce Jay Friedman with the pathos of Bernard Malamud and the epiphanies of James Joyce. With this volume Gerald Shapiro joins the ranks of the major Jewish-American writers.
This is a clever, creative and very funny approach to the idiosyncrasies of being Jewish. Shapiro has captured in excruciating detail the thoughts and feelings of several Jewish men who just don't seem to know how to cope with life. They are all good people who got a little confused or overwhelmed or distracted and have lost perspective on various aspects of being Jewish and on quite a few other things as well. Every story is different and intended to be funny, yet the reader feels a little guilty laughing at these poor souls and their mishaps. (Or is that the author's intention also?) The title (and final) story is reminiscent of Portnoy's Complaint.
Risky Strong Dromedary
I loved this book. Many times I found myself laughing out loud, putting down the book a second to savor the comic turn. Still, these characters aren't just treated like jokes. These are real people facing the same family problems all of us face. I really admire the way Shapiro balances humor with literary depth.

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