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The Task of Memory: American Jewish Writers and the Complexities of Transmission

The Task of Memory: American Jewish Writers and the Complexities of Transmission V I C T O R I A Janet Handler Burstein, Telling the Little Secrets: American Jewish Writing since the 1980s. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. xv + 264 pp. $45.00. Hana Wirth-Nesher, Call It English: The Languages of Jewish American Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006. xv + 224 pp. $39.50. "T he origin of a story is always an absence," remarks the narrator of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Everything Is Illuminated.1 At the heart of the quest for stories resides a perceived emptiness, a haunting sense of incompletion that needs to be filled. It's a motivating absence, so much so that one finds in the literature by American Jewish writers an urgency to recapture the very essence of those experiences transformed by time and perceptual as well as spatial distance. And while it may be, as Nadine Fresco suggests in "Remembering the Unknown," that finally "One remembers only that one remembers nothing," the desire to return to the origins of the story is undefeated by time or distance, or even by the memory's treacherous imagination.2 Such an impulse to transmit memory characterizes American Jewish literature, from its immigrant roots, to those post­World War II http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contemporary Literature University of Wisconsin Press

The Task of Memory: American Jewish Writers and the Complexities of Transmission

Contemporary Literature , Volume 49 (2) – Aug 28, 2008

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Publisher
University of Wisconsin Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
ISSN
1548-9949
Publisher site
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Abstract

V I C T O R I A Janet Handler Burstein, Telling the Little Secrets: American Jewish Writing since the 1980s. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. xv + 264 pp. $45.00. Hana Wirth-Nesher, Call It English: The Languages of Jewish American Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006. xv + 224 pp. $39.50. "T he origin of a story is always an absence," remarks the narrator of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Everything Is Illuminated.1 At the heart of the quest for stories resides a perceived emptiness, a haunting sense of incompletion that needs to be filled. It's a motivating absence, so much so that one finds in the literature by American Jewish writers an urgency to recapture the very essence of those experiences transformed by time and perceptual as well as spatial distance. And while it may be, as Nadine Fresco suggests in "Remembering the Unknown," that finally "One remembers only that one remembers nothing," the desire to return to the origins of the story is undefeated by time or distance, or even by the memory's treacherous imagination.2 Such an impulse to transmit memory characterizes American Jewish literature, from its immigrant roots, to those post­World War II

Journal

Contemporary LiteratureUniversity of Wisconsin Press

Published: Aug 28, 2008

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