2017 READING CHALLENGE
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In the twelve stories of "Total Immersion", Allegra Goodman views the stresses and ironies of the contemporary (often Jewish) world with a knowledge and self-confidence that are startling. Take Cecil Birnbaum of "Variant Text" (who will later appear in Kaaterskill Falls) -- Oxford househusband, Shavian scholar and an adamantly observant Jew who remains agnostic. Cecil's children attend a progressive Orthodox day school where they deal with issues of faith ("Hashem or Darwin? You decide") and their teachers and parents worry about the dress code (halakhah or Piaget?).
Ed Markowitz is in Oxford too in "Wish List", at the Wantage Centre where he lectures on Shiite terrorism. He's forced to question the usefulness of his scholarship while Sarah writes her novel, meanwhile playing the role of scholar's wife.
"The Succession" takes place in Honolulu, where the old Rabbi Siegal's treacherous magniloquence makes the congregation think he should retire, yet the younger rabbi is involved in a real estate scare and his ambitious wife has fled.
Ginnie of "Fait'" is from a Filipino family in Hawaii, and she's back from college at Berkeley to attend her sister's wedding. The proud, liberal-minded daughter suddenly finds her family embarrassingly provincial and uneducated, yet when her college boyfriend visits, Ginnie finds him all wrong in her home.
Allegra Goodman does notmerely score on such developments as kosher luaus; she uses them to focus and explore the timeless tug between tradition and acculteration in which the assurances of the past sometimes provide striking answers to the questions of the present.
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