From Hunger: Stories

Gerald Shapiro, Author
Gerald Shapiro, Author University of Missouri Press $24.95 (168p) ISBN 978-0-8262-0863-7
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Forty-ish and faltering, the Jewish men in the nine stories in this debut collection have reached a crossroads. And whether they are looking for guidance or a return to the uncomplicated years of their boyhoods, they maintain their basic innocence in a troubling world. The settings here range from Chicago to London, but the language of the characters is pure Hester Street (``You was such a sweet, beautiful boy. Such a Shayne punim . . . and polite?''). On occasion, imps and demons intervene. In ``The Community Seder,'' Schrank receives a mysterious invitation to a seder where most of the participants, members of his childhood shul, are already dead. ``Openings,'' a send-up of the New York art scene, features Neal Dubinsky (who exhibits ``found objects stuffed into cubicles''), chronically indecisive yet instantly willing to choose love over fame. The search for faith and integrity, and the need for community, propel these angst-ridden characters. Shapiro's prose is often acerbic and witty, but his heart is compassionate as he allows his bemused men a flash of insight and the gift of a second chance. (Apr.)
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