Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Not Quite Mainstream: Canadian Jewish Short Stories

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Not Quite Mainstream: Canadian Jewish Short Stories

Article excerpt

Norman Ravvin (ed.), Not Quite Mainstream: Canadian Jewish Short Stories (Calgary: Red Deer Press, 2001), 246pp. Paper. $18.95. ISBN 0-8899-5246-9.

It is not the 'mainstream' by which these stories should be measured, but the entire multi-textured river. The short story is a genre in which Canadians (including Jewish-Canadians) have long excelled. The idea of including works from a broad time-span is a good one, though some of the selections disappoint. Ravvin's brief 'Introduction' is more interesting than some of the stories; his account of finding (or being found by) Yaacov Zipper's Yiddish typewriter (p. 11) is as poignant as Zipper's story, 'That First Morning'.

Vivid descriptions, class analysis and matter-of-fact misogyny feature in Mordecai Richler's 'The Street'. 'Bluma Zelinger', by Rochl Korn, is full of anguish, passion, and the tyranny of ultra-orthodoxy. Richler's wide-angle lens skims a broad surface, while Korn zooms in on intimate personal lives. 'Piety', by Irving Layton, uses both lenses to produce a powerful portrait of poverty, difference and indifference in postwar Montreal.

Norman Levine's 'Thin Ice' is thin indeed - pale, passionless and detached. Even the author-protagonist's confrontation of his earlier poverty (while stuck in a snowstorm) is devoid of human feeling or contact. I find Levine's stylishly toneless braggadocio annoying and his throwaway line about a man who smiles despite looking like 'an Indian chief ' (p. …

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