Books by Thane Rosenbaum

THE GOLEMS OF GOTHAM by Thane Rosenbaum
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 10, 2002

"Rosenbaum has high ambitions, but here he disorients with a kind of jokey hilarity that disrupts his philosophical asides, rendering The Golems of Gotham an unstable mix of camp and earnestness."
Rosenbaum's latest (Second Hand Smoke, 1999, etc.) promises an engagement with the relations between art, suffering, and memory, but delivers Mel Brooks without the rim shots in the tale of a blocked Jewish mystery writer whose daughter resurrects ghosts to release his creativity. Read full book review >
SECOND HAND SMOKE by Thane Rosenbaum
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 12, 1999

Tikkun literary editor Rosenbaum's debut novel is again, like his earlier collection of stories (Elijah Visible, 1996), an autobiographically influenced account of the burdens shouldered by children of Holocaust survivors. While the family-background elements are persuasive, the plot itself tends more often to be forcedly unrealistic. Raised in Miami in the '50s and '60's, Duncan Katz is trained for strength and vengeance by his refugee parents, the benign "Yankee" and towering Mila, both survivors of Poland's death camps. Well evoked are the family's habits of secrecy, suspicion, and paranoia; Mila's compensating appetite for ruthless gambling; and the early phases of Duncan's life. The boy excels at martial arts and aggressive sports, and later he becomes a lawyer in order to pursue Nazi war criminals hiding in the US. Eventually, his attempt to extract a confession illegally from a suspect costs him his job; then his mother dies; and his wife Sharon—no more than an emotional bauble here—insists that he leave her and their daughter Milan. His mother's final days in the hospital, and her confession that she abandoned a son in Poland before fleeing, contain touching moments, while Duncan's own search for his brother Isaac, and his exploits in Poland, are thick on action but thin on credulity. Isaac, a spiritual leader in his own community, teaches Duncan the techniques of yoga to contain his rage, and the pair spend a harrowing night (or is it a dream?) in a Birkenau camp cell dressed in striped uniforms adorned with gold stars. Ultimately, realizing that his mother never nourished him emotionally, Duncan is able to make peace with his past. Rosenbaum portrays well Miami's Jewish refugee population and the psychological box that traps Duncan early on. It's difficult, though, to credit a reconciliation that involves proper breathing techniques, the alignment of chakras, and a great, dewy-eyed group hug around the gravesite of a departed matriarch. Read full book review >
ELIJAH VISIBLE by Thane Rosenbaum
Released: April 4, 1996

A first collection from Rosenbaum, a Manhattan lawyer turned writer, draws heavily on the author's memories of growing up as the child of Holocaust survivors. ``The Holocaust,'' Rosenbaum writes, ``is the great equalizer of stark interior dramas: Reordering nerves, creating strengths and frailties, transforming individuals into something they would not have otherwise been.'' And those individuals, the ones who survive, will in turn transform those with whom they come in contact, none more so than their children—this is the running theme, the major preoccupation, of these nine stories. Adam Posner, the central figure, is a multifaceted version of the author himself, here a tennis prodigy growing up in Miami Beach, there a lawyer struggling against demons from the past, elsewhere a child summering in a Catskills bungalow colony with a crazy, gambling-addicted mother. Using the pieces like a fragmented mirror, Rosenbaum plays out nine variations on what life could have been for a son of Holocaust survivors, dark improvisations on the themes of death, distrust, and psychic dislocation. In the most successful tales—generally the longer ones—Adam is primarily a witness, a device that effectively allows the reader entry into a psychologically troubled world. Two stories set in the Miami Beach of the '60s, ``The Rabbi Double-Faults'' and ``Lost, In a Sense,'' are particularly astute in their understanding of the inner life of childhood and the emotional confusions generated by the adult world. The weakest story, ``Cattle Car Complex,'' reduces these insights to a weak irony worthy of a failed Twilight Zone episode. Rosenbaum is a writer of promise who must learn to eschew the overwrought metaphor and occasional easy irony. The best pieces here are quite good indeed, however, and make their author a voice worth hearing. Read full book review >