Non-depressing suggestions

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Non-depressing suggestions

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1ejfertig
Editado: Out 30, 2009, 10:08pm

My synagogue's book club has tended to pick fairly depressing books, and is to change direction in their selection of books about the Jewish experience. Does anyone have any suggestions for good novels about Judaism, Israel, by Israeli authors, etc which aren't so depressing. I had thought of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and The Girl from Foreign. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

2torontoc
Out 30, 2009, 4:37pm

difficult- there are so many good but depressing books!
I read Etgar Keret- I'm looking at The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God
Dara Horn's The World to Come is great -but a little depressing.
What about David Liss's books? -historical fiction?
Very old books- any of Ephraim Kishon's are very funny
-Aaron Lansky's memoir is funny- Outwitting History-how he got into the business of saving Yiddish books.
I'll look to see if I can find any non- depressing books.

3lquilter
Out 30, 2009, 4:43pm

The Dyke and the Dybbuk by Ellen Galford is laugh-out-loud funny, about a dyke, a dybbuk, and an Orthodox community.

4GoofyOcean110
Out 30, 2009, 10:08pm

#3 - that would be great for a Shul book club!!

5GoofyOcean110
Out 30, 2009, 10:13pm

How about The Jew and the Lotus, about BuJus (or is it JuBus?)

or the writings of Yehuda Amichai, Chaim Potok, Amos Oz

6torontoc
Out 31, 2009, 9:52am

I just finished The Bus Driver Who wanted to be God- it is not a happy book. I think that the question should be- what makes Jewish fiction depressing, or satiric? I was thinking of the books of Mordecai Richler, Saul Bellow, Pearl Abraham. -wonderful but.. somewhat sad.

7MarianV
Out 31, 2009, 1:36pm

Chaim Potok's novels are both serious & humorous
Plain Jane by Eve Horowitz also has that funny-sad mixture.

8rocketjk
Nov 2, 2009, 11:40am

I thought of Potok right away, too. Also, while you have to pick and choose among the works regarding the "depressing" factor, Isaac Singer is always a good choice.

Portnoy's Complaint is probably not for a synagogue reading group, I guess, although it is a riot. But I would highly recommend The Ghost Writer or The Human Stain by Philip Roth. The Plot Against America would be a thought-provoking read, although it's not my personal favorite among Roth's works.

9berthirsch
Nov 2, 2009, 12:06pm

I agree that Singer is a great choice- his humor is universal and jewish at the same time.

10berthirsch
Nov 2, 2009, 12:08pm

...i also think that the idea raises other,more interesting questions. Is suffering part of the jewish experience? how is this reflected in jewish literature?

11GoofyOcean110
Nov 10, 2009, 1:25pm

Suffering is almost undoubtedly a part of the Jewish experience - we remember suffering going all the way back to Egypt and beyond. But to turn the question on its head - is Joy a part of the Jewish experience? While conflict makes great literature, what resolutions or solutions can be gleaned from it?

12rocketjk
Nov 10, 2009, 1:46pm

11> Well, in fiction, I'd say we glean resolutions and solutions from seeing how characters handle conflict, and also from getting a clear observer's view of the elements that cause conflict. We also gain insight when we learn what the elements were that brought about conflict at the historical level (why was such a war fought? why were certain groups of people persecuted? how do people deal with and/or survive such persecution? how and why do they succumb?).

And, yes, Joy is part of the Jewish experience. If it weren't, the Jewish religion and culture would have disappeared long ago.

13berthirsch
Nov 12, 2009, 7:32pm

joy...how about humor...this is a strong theme in jewish life, fiction and entertainment. who are thye great jewish humorists-IB Singer, Woody Allen, Joseph Heller,et.

and then there is Leo Rosten's classic- The Joys of Yiddish.

14MarianV
Nov 12, 2009, 8:15pm

If you want humor, try to get hold of Leo Rosten's T*H*E* *E*D*U*C*A*T*I*O*N* O*F*
H*Y*M*A*N* *K*A*P*L*A*N

It's a riot!

15avidmom
Nov 12, 2009, 8:51pm

I remember watching The Chosen by Chaim Potok in a high school class and later in a Christian Bible study class at church. A few years later I found the book on our library shelves and read it. That particular book/movie remains one of my favorites!

A few years ago The Cubs and the Kaballist appeared on my library's section of "new releases" and couldn't resist the title. I really enjoyed it; I thought it was funny. It came in handy when I watched the movie "Stranger than Fiction" and Dustin Hoffman tells Will Farrell that he's ruled out that Will's character is a "golom." Ha! If it wasn't for that book I wouldn't have known what that was.

I realize the latter may not fit your bill for your synagogue read .......

16bergs47
Jun 28, 2010, 9:55am

Hello

A bit late but something that has a Jewish main character (although not really a Jewish theme) is

http://www.librarything.com/work/621589

The Case of the Missing Books

Also try some Howard Jacobson.. his earlier works.

17berthirsch
Jul 13, 2010, 12:41pm

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathon Safran Foer

18hazelk
Jul 14, 2010, 2:50am

The Aggravations of Minnie Ashe by Cyril Kersh. Minnie is the quintessence of Jewish mothers or at least Jewish mothers in the old days.

19RSGompertz
Ago 12, 2010, 11:40am

I'm the (Jewish) author of No Roads Lead to Rome

While I hesitate to label my humorous, historical adventure purely "Jewish Fiction," there's no denying the sensibilities that I bring to this Rome tome.

Without giving too much away, I'll signal that my reluctant young hero is the son of a wayward Rabbi, a kosher butcher on the lam. My young protagonist is wrestling with the apparent benefits of assimilation versus the difficulties of maintaining his Jewish identity in a backwater province (Spain, 123 AD) where Judiasm has very little presence. His brother wants to go to Judea and overthrow the Roman Empire, but only after assassinating the emperor.

But, as they say, "When it comes to assassination, execution is everything."

The saga takes place during the time of Hadrian, the eventual "father" of the diaspora. "No Roads" takes place a dozen years before the Bar Kochba rebellion so I can weave a lighthearted story in spite of the darkness looming on the horizon.

The electronic form of my book is often in the Top 10 list for a variety of Amazon Kindle categories.

Enjoy!

RSG

20ldjaffe
Editado: Jan 18, 2011, 2:22pm

I'm just joining this group. I also participate in my temple's book group. Most the members are over 60 but they don't shy away from the rough stuff. The former facilitator was a lit professor and he liked to prod them to talk about sex in the stories and I remember one 80+ old member using the saying "F*ck" to make an important point.

Saying that, I think it is in the nature of Jewish writing to deal with difficult issues in a humorous way. (That's what Wikipedia says, anyway.) So the subject matter is often depressing: Holocaust, assimilation, interfaith strife, Israel, the inability to find good knishes anywhere...

Recent titles from our group that I'd recommend, though none are happy books, include

Foreign Bodies
The Finkler Question
Foreskin's Lament
The Ministry of Special Cases
Mazel
36 Arguments for the Existence of God
The Coffee Trader
A Woman in Jerusalem
Friendly Fire: A Duet
Fabulous Small Jews
Jewish Gauchos of the Pampas
Dropped From Heaven
The Jewish Husband

21bostonbibliophile
Jan 18, 2011, 8:10pm

A local synagogue I work with recently had The Madonnas of Leningrad and Sima's Undergarments for Women in their book club and read Someone to Run With last year, which was popular.

22berthirsch
Fev 2, 2011, 1:20pm

IdJaffe-

i enjoyed seeing your list. I just finished Finkler which I agree is not a happy book though it does have touches of humor throughout. its leading theme of Zionism and anti-semitism can, at times, be painful to read.

I am curious about 2 of the books: Jewish Gauchos and Special Ministry- both take place in Argentina- I have a particular interest in the jewish experience in Argentina and was curious if your synagogue/congregation had any particular connection to Argentina?

23weisbardaj
Jul 22, 2011, 5:56pm

Responding to the theme rather than the specific question:
Is there a specific literary equivalent to music written in a minor key?

I do a fair amount of Jewish adult-ed teaching, but utilize mostly non-fiction materials (theology, history. law and ethics).
My wife participates in a synagogue-based reading group, and has been disturbed that many selections involve Jewish characters and Jewish shtick, but not so much in the way of deeper Jewish themes. Those themes can be comic and irreverent, but in the most rewarding literature, have some darker edge--at least to my taste.

24berthirsch
Jul 25, 2011, 12:27pm

In The Days of Simon Stern is a lost classic by the late Arthur A. Cohen- certainly has a dark side but also has a touch of magic realism.

may be hard to acquire in bulk.