Cover image for The wedding jester
The wedding jester
Stern, Steve, 1947-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
St. Paul, Minn. : Graywolf Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
223 pages ; 23 cm
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The New York Times has called Steve Stern "a prodigiously talented writer who arrives unheralded like one of the apparitions in his own stories." The Philadelphia Inquirer has said, "Steve Stern is an astonishing writer." Whatever the source, the critics agree that Stern offers immense delight, and outright laughs, throughout his award-winning books. The Wedding Jester offers a new chance to journey to Stern's magical Jewish otherworld-- where fantastical events are commonplace, and rabbis-- sometimes frequently-- take flight.

Author Notes

Steve Stern is the author of several works of fiction, most recently A Plague of Dreamers . His honors include two New York Times Notable Books, a Pushcart Writer's Choice Award, an O. Henry Prize, and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish American Fiction. Stern was born in Memphis, Tennessee and now lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Stern brings a contemporary twist to the rich folkloric tradition of Jewish culture in these entrancing short stories. By channeling the dreamy vision of Chagall, the magic and contrariness of Isaac Bashevis Singer, and the irony and surrealism of Woody Allen through the prisms of his own sly imagination and beautifully crafted prose, Stern topples any number of shibboleths. In "The Sin of Elijah," he presents the prophet as a bumbling voyeur. A flying rabbi transforms a materialistic city neighborhood in "The Tale of a Kite." In "Romance," a brilliantly complex tale set on Hester Street at the turn-of-the-century, Stern dramatizes the mystical power of fantasy. And then there's the scoured-to-perfection title story in which Saul, a gloomy middle-aged writer, attends a wedding in the Catskills at which the ghost of an obnoxiously vulgar comedian possesses the lovely bride. Stern's gift for combining farce with fairy tale in sharply etched and electrifyingly hilarious scenes illuminates the timeless center of a protean culture and of every striving human heart. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rich and wondrous, these nine tales confirm Stern's (A Plague of Dreamers) distinctive place in modern American Jewish fiction, as he continues to stake out his own unique territory where history and myth intersect, where Jewish legends, mysticism and ancient traditions implode into the everyday with dazzling and unforeseen consequences. "Magic realism" seems too facile a term to encompass these beguiling, multilayered stories in which a flying rabbi floats above houses and trolleys; a humble cobbler and his wife, transported to Paradise via extraordinarily "ecstatic intercourse," enlist the aid of Elijah, prophet-turned-honorary angel, to return them to earth; and a voracious, man-hungry succubus steps from a mirror to seduce a terrified yeshiva scholar. Fervent dreamers, crackpot messiahs, bedeviled housewives, rowdy beekeepers, vagrant angels and wise fools fiercely pursue their obscure destinies in ingenious fictions that prismatically filter Jewish history, tragedy, consciousness, hope and despair through a modern existential lens. In the hilarious and outrageous title story, set in a Catskills singles resort, the bride-to-beÄmoments before she can say "I do"Äis possessed by a dybbuk, in this case the spirit of a wisecracking dead male Borscht Belt comedian. The narrator, a blocked writer who could be Stern's alter-ego, uses a kabbalist kissing technique to exorcise the unruly spirit-which then possesses him. This irreverent, classic story plumbs Jewish humor as a source of strength, a survival tool, a vehicle to resist cant and conformity. Stern's tales utterly transport readers into a fully realized world, whether the setting is the neurotic, Seinfeld-like milieu of a Manhattan writer ("Bruno's Metamorphosis"), or czarist Russia's Jewish ghetto and New York's Lower East Side ("Romance"), or Stern's favorite haunt, a Memphis, Tenn., Jewish community in uneasy coexistence with its gentile neighbors ("Tale of a Kite"). With empathy and bracing wit, Stern's enjoyable stories seismically chart the collision of the Old World and the New, of undying religious traditions and modern secularism, of lust and love, faith and doubt. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this collection of nine action-packed, richly folkloric stories, Stern (A Plague of Dreamers, LJ 11/1/93) takes his readers on a surrealistic ride steeped in tradition. Jewish mysticism, magic, and otherworldly concerns are featured throughout. In "The Sin of Elijah," Gitl and Feybush Fefer live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the early part of the century. Unbeknownst to them, their lovemaking is observed by Elijah the prophet, leading to a trip to heaven, a return to Earth in the present, and other riotous hijinks. In the title story, nondescript writer Saul Bozoff accompanies his mother to a wedding at the Concord Hotel in New York's Catskill Mountains. His shining moment comes when he is able to exorcise a dybbuk from the bride, who becomes possessed at the altar by a long-dead Jewish comic. Apparitions, the fantastical, and uproarious hilarity are featured throughout. Recommended for large fiction collections.ÄMolly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.