Why? It’s not merely a matter of what Josh knows about his subject (which is, frankly, quite a lot). It’s also a matter of his excellent, engaging writing style. Epitomized in this e-mail he sent about the book’s release:
“First let me tell you a little about the book. It’s a handbook to American Jewish fiction: think Uris, Roth, Malamud, Bellow, Bashevis Singer, Potok, Ozick, Paley, Foer, and Friday, the Rabbi Slept Late, plus a whole lot of truly excellent writers you’ve never heard of. It’s sort of like a Zagat guide, except that there are no quantitative scores and I had to come up with all the snappy remarks myself. The book contains short reviews of 125 novels and short story collections published from 1867 to 2007, including lots of classics and many lost treasures, plus there’s an introduction that gives a broad overview of the development and contours of the field, and some useful appendices. The book aims to give you a good sense for the range and depth of what I believe is one of the stronger literary traditions of the 20th century. The best part is that you don’t even need to read the whole thing to tell me how much you like it. You can just flip through and see what catches your eye. And if you happen to have a deeper interest in American Jewish fiction–either as an enthusiastic reader, or as a student of American literature or Jewish Studies–I hope you’ll ifnd that my book leads you to some interesting discoveries (or, at least, that it allows you to pretend convincingly that you’ve read books when you’ve only read my summaries of them).”
Intrigued by this (perfectly accurate, in my view) description? How about this? The Jewish Publication Society is offering a 40 percent discount through February 28. Go order your copy now!
And Mazel Tov to Josh for writing a guide that’s a “coffee table book” in the best sense–one I am leaving within ready reaching distance so I can pick it up (more often than not) whenever I settle on my sofa.