Occasionally inspired but mostly lackluster fictional re-creation of the 1917 love affair between austere, seemingly...

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JOHN AND ANZIA: An American Romance

Occasionally inspired but mostly lackluster fictional re-creation of the 1917 love affair between austere, seemingly repressed New England philosopher/educationalist John Dewey and Anzia Yezierska, the ambitious, rebellious Jewish immigrant writer. The theme appears repeatedly in Yezierska's fiction: poor girl from the Lower East Side, passionately seeking learning and Americanization, falls in love with the handsome WASP teacher who is fascinated by her impulsiveness and vitality. In the 70's, love poems written by Dewey came to light, and he was eventually identified as the model for Yezierska's American gentleman heroes. Yezierska's daughter has written that the relationship was intense but never consummated; Rosen (At the Center, Joy to Levine!) lets her May-December/Jewish-WASP protagonists enjoy a full-fledged, if sometimes tormented, affair. The style is sometimes remarkable: Yezierska found that to sell her stories of immigrant life, she had to abandon her painstakingly learned college English and write in Yiddish-inflected style; Rosen's narrative--which combines a spirit like Yezierska's with standard grammar--often reads uncannily like what Anzia herself might have written had she been allowed. But Rosen sticks so close to her sources that there's little in this slender volume that wasn't said better by the originals in their own books. The more imaginative sections--complications involving self-made man and art collector Albert C. Barnes and his sinister bodyguard--are merely melodramatic. Well-intentioned, failed novel that does provide an introduction to the life and work of two fascinating people.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 1989

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1989