The Very Heavy Hand of Editor Norman F. Cantor

By Wegman, Reviewed Jules | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

The Very Heavy Hand of Editor Norman F. Cantor


Wegman, Reviewed Jules, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The Jewish Experience

Edited by Norman F. Cantor

488 pages, HarperCollins, $37.50 COLLECTIONS TELL us less about each author of the works included than about the editors who did the collecting. "The Jewish Experience," an anthology of short stories, essays and parts of biographies, novels and memoirs, is no exception. Editor Norman F. Cantor, author of a 1994 history of Judaism, "The Sacred Chain," has created a big, mostly dull, book with many long works of limited interest. There are not many passages from the Bible, Talmud or sages such as Maimonides. Most selections are by 19th- and 20th-century writers and thinkers: Henry Roth, Sholem Aleichem, Philip Roth, Mordechai Richler, Bernard Malamud, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, Franz Kafka, Erica Jong, Sholem Asch, Emile Zola, Lawrence Kushner. Cantor must have selected the dullest writing of each. Still, there are gems among the more than 100 pieces. In one of the first, former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater tells how his family came to Arizona and ended up Episcopalian. "Bontsha the Silent" is a droll, wise Hasidic folktale by I.L. Peretz. Yiddish writer Der Nister describes an old town in Eastern Europe's Pale of Settlement, bringing back to life its markets and synagogues. There is a poignant selection from Anne Frank's diary. …

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