Cover image for Bad Jews and other stories
Bad Jews and other stories
Shapiro, Gerald, 1950-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Zoland Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
325 pages ; 22 cm
Worst-case scenarios -- The twelve plagues -- The tutor -- At the Great Divide -- Suskind, the impresario -- The Feigenbaum Foundation -- Rosenthal unbound -- Shifman in paradise -- Bad Jews.
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Bad Jews and Other Stories is a nuanced and comic vision of life, love, and spiritual adventurism among the determinedly secular class of contemporary American Jews. Separated from the character-building hardships endured by their parents and grandparents, unable to find a faith of their own or for that matter to believe in much of anything at all, the characters of Bad Jews and Other Stories wander through the moral landscape of their lives in a loopy version of the Children of Israel's meandering way home. Along the way they suffer a range of antic, often absurd misadventures. And as often as not they find redemption as well as disaster.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In the wonderfully unpredictable and hilarious short story "The Twelve Plagues" (one of two tales about a painter), Shapiro, author of From Hunger (1993) and editor of American Jewish Fiction (1998), has his protagonist recall a conversation with his rabbi during which he confessed his doubts regarding the existence of God. The rabbi tells him brusquely that all that matters is that he's a Jew: "When the Nazis come to town, you think they're going to ask if you're an atheist or not?" This baffling legacy, one of blood and loss rather than of faith, shapes each of Shapiro's on-the-edge heroes. Faced with divorce, death, and success that feels like failure, each "bad" Jew is given succor in surprising forms, all of which seem subtly connected to this involving collection's central story, "Suskind, The Impresario." As Suskind worries about his ailing mother and bumbles his work on a museum exhibition titled "Remembering the Way," Shapiro shows his readers the way home both emotionally and spiritually with his abiding compassion and tightly wound humor. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

As Rabbi Futterman tells Elliot Suskind in "Suskind the Impresario": "if the mistake you make is bad enough, one is all it takes." This is a premise for tragedy, but Shapiro shapes it into high comedy in the nine stories in his second collection (after From Hunger). Suskind is a San Francisco publicist for Museum of the Mind. He's still despondent over his divorce, which happened 10 years ago, and suddenly his mother dies. Suskind's job is also at stake, and he plans to redeem himself in publicizing the museum's latest exhibit by organizing a bicycle-messenger race across the city. In a piquant twist, this involves him in a sex pageant the night before his mother's funeral, which leads to another bizarre but epiphanic eventÄall of which Shapiro orchestrates with the control of a master magician. Middle-aged Leo Spivak in "Worst Case Scenario" travels to San Francisco test marketing his goofball security goods; there he runs into Betsy Ingraham, the object of his unrequited high school passion. Miraculously getting her back to his hotel room for a tryst, Spivak goes off the deep end and winds up at her home, returning her panties to her husband. In the title story, Spivak's disreputable dad dies in Arizona. The funeral turns into a shambles, with a pine coffin (kosher, but cheap), an incompetent rabbi and Leo's impromptu eulogy. By the end of the tale, Leo is afflicted with the feeling that he'll always be a schmuck. Artist Ken Rosenthal in "The Twelve Plagues" wins a prize from a Jewish organization for his contemporary interpretations of the biblical plagues. But the prize donor humiliatingly castigates him because he has added two modern-day blights: call-waiting and no parking spaces. In Shapiro's pessimistic world, even when a character gets what he wants, it immediately evokes a feeling of doom. Brimming with keen insight into the psyches of hilarious, even lovable, losers, the wacky brilliance of these remarkable stories marks Shapiro as a writer to watch. Agent, Maria Massie. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Worst-Case Scenariosp. 1
The Twelve Plaguesp. 27
The Tutorp. 52
At the Great Dividep. 76
Suskind, the Impresariop. 111
The Feigenbaum Foundationp. 184
Rosenthal Unboundp. 213
Shifman in Paradisep. 245
Bad Jewsp. 293