Jewish Noir


103015_MishMash_book“Jewish Noir,” an anthology of more than 30 tales, offers just as many interpretations and flavors of noir. And throughout them weaves the thread that editor Kenneth Wishnia tugs at in the introduction: fatalism and rootlessness — “a person who is at home nowhere,” — defines the characters as well as the characteristics of a nice juicy noir. What better match then, asks Wishnia, than Jews and noir?

One of the gems is “The Celebration,” written more than 100 years ago by Yiddish author Yente Serdatsky, who paints a vivid picture of an early 1900s social gathering and the comrades’ nostalgia as they swap stories, hopes and dreams. Translated by Wishnia, it draws the reader into the heart and mind of a radical Jewish woman’s bittersweet yearnings, ultimately cheated by disappointment in a newfound country.

“Doc’s Oscar” is about an ailing Jewish wheelchair-bound Hollywood has-been who depends upon the kindness of strangers, though he treats most others with contempt. The subtle twist at the story’s end sends a shiver up the spine.

Though some of the writing is uneven, there are enough stories to keep the pages turning. “Sucker’s Game” is told from the point of view of a young girl, who begins her day fending off Jewish slurs from schoolmates on the bus, but ends up hiding under her bed from a cold-blooded killer. No spoilers here; there is so much more to the story — including her father’s mysterious business trips to Argentina and a little Jewish grandma caretaker she’s not quite convinced is actually a relative.

“Jewish Noir” is an innovative concept, for which Wishnia delivers the smoking gun.

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