GENERATION WITHOUT MEMORY: A Jewish Journey in Christian America by Anne Roiphe

GENERATION WITHOUT MEMORY: A Jewish Journey in Christian America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The ""journey"" of the subtitle is more of a meander. And the title, implying communal experience, is wildly misleading--because, as this book winds along, Roiphe's self-examination of what it's like to be a nearly totally assimilated Jew (complete with Christmas tree) almost immediately loses whatever adhesion it might have had. She talks about the Holocaust, her inability to believe in God (a dainty petulance at why-all-the-suffering in the first place), the envy she feels for her religious friends and her misgivings, still, about tribalism. She is spurred by her psychoanalysis to attempt amendments to an Isaac C. Singer novel (The Magician of Lublin, but with a feminist ending), then to explore the tenets of Judaism itself. But there is no grip. When Roiphe declares ""I care that Jewishness continues. I am saddened at the thought of an end. The tradition has been too rich, too full, too poignant, too ripe with human effort just to dwindle off,"" you get the uneasy sensation of reading someone who has just transformed the Book of Exodus into How the West Was Won. Religious Jew, secularist, Gentile, man or woman, even Roiphe herself--no one will really find satisfaction here, then. Autobiographical elements in defense of Jewish assimilation are sometimes striking: ""From pariahs. . . they became educated, civilized, nonauthentic, parvenus, hypocrites, masked creatures. . . but simultaneously the world was open to them. . . . They no longer jumped off the sidewalks to let the Gentiles pass. . . . It was a trade, it had advantages and disadvantages."" Everywhere else, though, one finds Roiphe's misgivings, searchings, unsureness. Contradiction has a crucial role to play in personal journalism like this, but brevity is its ally--and brevity is what Roiphe cannot command. Her book is repetitious, protracted, and yet insufficient to the real dilemmas which it raises, then flings about willy-nilly.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1981
Publisher: Linden/Simon & Schuster