A BIG JEWISH BOOK: Poems and Other Visions of the Jews From Tribal Times to the Present by Jerome--Ed. Rothenberg

A BIG JEWISH BOOK: Poems and Other Visions of the Jews From Tribal Times to the Present

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Despite its disingenuous title, Leo Rosten this isn't--and don't ever say you weren't warned. As a sort of cottage industrialist turning out heterodox poetry anthologies, Rothenberg now delivers ""the poetic/visionary continuum"" that illustrates the ""mystical & magical side of the Jewish tradition."" Territory, in other words, that owes every line on its map to Gershom Scholem's pioneering work on the Kabbala--but lacking all of Scholem's resistance to the incursions of swoony incantation and preposterous elision. Here instead we dip back into ""the darkness of the jewish life mysterious untamed he enters stars & jellies at the core a substance I never had the grasp of light is lightless. . ."" etc.--as Rothenberg, with the help of two linguists in ancient languages, puts together a holistic approach to Jewishness that somehow equates Kafka with Isaac Luria with the Zohar with Tristan Tzara with a whole raft of Rothenberg's contemporaries. Binding them together are Rothenberg's own sludgy notebook entries (""consciousness is also touch creation is creation of this place image of what we are life felt most sharply where the dead wait""). There are things here that are fascinating--excerpts from the sayings of Jacob Frank, the 18th-century post-Sabbataian messiah-manquÉ; snippets from the French writer Jabes; even a very apt Lenny Bruce routine--but, overall, the bardism, the extreme self-consciousness, the humorlessness, the fudged discrimination, the prophetism make this book very annoying. Among academics with a quasi-Rosicrucian bent, there may be an audience for it.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday