GYPSIES by Howard Greenfeld


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Greenfeld's survey of gypsy life and customs differs from Bernice Kohn's 1972 introduction most markedly in that her statements were tentative, while his are cut-and-dried. Greenfeld doesn't seem to have given his usual consideration to the data he reports and he gives readers little indication of how widespread the traditional practices are today. (Gypsy women, he emphasizes, wear floor-length skirts as the lower part of their bodies are ""polluted""--but what of the group photo with a woman's legs clearly in evidence?) A related shortcoming is the absence of specific cases--though we share Greenfeld's scorn of ""colorful"" journalistic accounts, his own would have more vitality and substance if it included, for example, one instance of how contemporary American gypsies use their ""intuitive skills"" and tip-off tradition to beat the welfare system. His writing too is careless and occasionally condescending. To be sure, the fascination of the subject insures an audience for this undemanding, loosely informative overview of these eternal nomads' origins, history of persecution, traditional occupations, ceremonies, and beliefs; and well-placed photos add interest. It's just that we'd have expected something sharper.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1977
Publisher: Crown