While the Messiah Tarries: Selected Poems

Melvin Jules Bukiet, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $20 (240p) ISBN 978-0-15-100083-8
The mundane and the mystical collide in these remarkable, offbeat stories that use a Jewish-American milieu to pose universal moral and metaphysical puzzles. In ``Gematria,'' a Manhattan jewelry dealer encounters a mysterious woman who wants a square emerald; a series of murders follows, accompanied by cryptic messages that reveal the murderer's familiarity with gematria, the kabbalistic discipline of calculating the numerical value of words in order to reveal ``the secret truths evident beneath the surface of the language.'' In ``The Big Metzia,'' a New York garment manufacturer copes with a ghost as he teams up in business with two shady Russian emigre brothers who lead him through the entrepreneurial minefields of glasnost-era Moscow. Bukiet (Sandman's Dust) creates memorable, maverick characters who live on the edge, treading a dangerous path between the sacred and the profane: a Columbia archeologist on a dig in the Near East believes he has unearthed the birthplace of the eternal monotheistic God (``Old Words for New''); a New Jersey real-estate lawyer tracks down a crackpot German refugee peddling a rare Nazi home movie (``Himmler's Chickens''); a dishonest Kosher butcher is a closet vegetarian (``The Golden Calf and the Red Heifer''); an upstate New York rabbi tries to outwit the devil (``The Devil and the Dutchman''). Bukiet is a gifted, inventive writer whose fine sense of contrast is evident not only in his eerie juxtapositions but also in moments of perfect comic timing. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
Paperback - 197 pages - 978-0-8156-0497-6
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