If you think someone is taking himself a bit too seriously when you're introduced to a quest for contemporary Jewishness by ""this junior Don Quixote, Mark Mirsky,"" just wait till he loses a wallet full of cash and credit cards (accident? theft?) in the Sinai: ""A good swift kick in the rear I get from Our Father, Our King at the gateway to Sinai. . . . I woke up from all my sentimental dreams of Israel."" This torrent of self-dramatizing kvetching comes after Mirsky has railed against the ""obnoxious euphemisms"" of ""Reader's Digest Judaism,"" mingled with New York's Bobover Chasidim, examined the auras and oeuvres of three giants of Jewish theology, and wailed at the Wailing Wall. The trio of appreciations--Harvard philosopher Harry Wolfson, lawgiver Joseph Soloveitchik (""the greatest storyteller I have ever heard""), modern mystic Gershom Scholem--is the most satisfying thing here, because it shifts the focus away from Mirsky himself, whose embrace of Jewish mysticism (""It was not Freud but Scholem who gave me insight"") and super-separatism (""We, as a tribe will outstrip the Swedes, the Danes, the Chinese. . . . Let us be different"") suffers from self-righteousness and a feverish need to generalize all problems (like ""our sexual craziness"") into Jewish problems. Still, the author is a novelist, his travel descriptions entertain, and his slangy oratory keeps the arguments--even when they're tunnel-visioned (on Bellow, Malamud, and Roth) or superficial (Jewish women)--tight and lively. ""Confront! Argue! Be different!"" Mirsky does all that, but he projects so little self-awareness that not many will be inclined to follow his particular brand of search, let alone join it.