John and Anzia: An American (Something)

Norma Rosen, Author Dutton Books $18.95 (177p) ISBN 978-0-525-24806-4
Rosen ( At the Center ) bases her love story on archival evidence that renowned philosopher and teacher John Dewey had an affair in 1917 with a Polish immigrant half his age, Anzia Yezierska. Finding clues about the affair in Dewey's poetry and Yezierska's ethnic tales of immigrant life, Rosen frames her story with an explanatory foreword and afterword. Beginning and ending first-person narrative segments are in the voice of Anzia, the only character who really comes to life. Anzia is charming (``Scylla and Charybdis, a phrase from her full-of-gaps reading, were for all she knew two avenues in Minsk.'') but Dewey and other players, from Dr. Albert Barnes of Argyrol fame to the body aligner Dr. F. M. Alexander, enjoy only a sort of half-life, portrayed by a limiting combination of historic accuracy and fictional embellishment. As with many fictional treatments based on historic characters, allegiance to the truth ultimately hobbles the interests of fiction. Nonetheless, this is a rich story with wonderful moments. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/28/1989
Release date: 12/01/1989
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