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Elijah Visible: Stories St. Martin’s Press 1st edition Thane Rosenbaum

11th July 2013 Literature & Fiction 8 Comments

With the publication of Elijah Visible, Thane Rosenbaum emerged as a fresh and important new voice on the American literary scene, a young writer in the great Jewish storytelling tradition of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Isaac Babel. In this haunting debut, Rosenbaum weaves together nine postmodern tales about Adam Posner, a young man determined to climb the American corporate ladder, who finds himself paralyzed by he legacy of the Holocaust. Encumbered by the psychic screams of his deceased parents, Posner embodies the disintegration, as well as the spiritual search, of the modern Jewish family. Rosenbaum’s stunning portrait of the post-Holocaust world will resonate with contemporary readers of all backgrounds.

In “Cattle Car Complex,” the first of nine interlinked stories in this powerful debut collection, disaffected Manhattan lawyer Adam Posner, a lifelong insomniac and claustrophobic, is stricken with paroxysmal rage on an office elevator as he remembers how his parents, both Holocaust survivors, were transported by cattle car to concentration camps. In a subsequent story, “The Rabbi Double-Faults,” the Holocaust shadows 1950s Miami when a seemingly nonchalant rabbi bares his death-camp tattoo during a tennis game with the then-young Adam. Rosenbaum, himself the child of Holocaust survivors, now a law professor at Fordham, casts Adam as the central character of each of these searing tales, but in various guises, at different ages, with different sets of parents. In “Romancing the Yohrzeit Light,” a desperately funny story that recalls Philip Roth, Adam is a New York abstract expressionist painter courting a gentile Swedish woman; in “An Act of Defiance,” he is a brooding college instructor specializing in Holocaust studies who encounters his Belgian uncle, an Auschwitz survivor, exuberantly alive. With savage irony, these impassioned stories bemoan secular Jews’ fragmented families and weak identification with their faith, as well as the chasm between generations that dulls recognition of the full enormity of the Holocaust.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

A first collection from Rosenbaum, a Manhattan lawyer turned writer, draws heavily on the author’s memories of growing up as the child of Holocaust survivors. “The Holocaust,” Rosenbaum writes, “is the great equalizer of stark interior dramas: Reordering nerves, creating strengths and frailties, transforming individuals into something they would not have otherwise been.” And those individuals, the ones who survive, will in turn transform those with whom they come in contact, none more so than their children–this is the running theme, the major preoccupation, of these nine stories. Adam Posner, the central figure, is a multifaceted version of the author himself, here a tennis prodigy growing up in Miami Beach, there a lawyer struggling against demons from the past, elsewhere a child summering in a Catskills bungalow colony with a crazy, gambling-addicted mother. Using the pieces like a fragmented mirror, Rosenbaum plays out nine variations on what life could have been for a son of Holocaust survivors, dark improvisations on the themes of death, distrust, and psychic dislocation. In the most successful tales–generally the longer ones–Adam is primarily a witness, a device that effectively allows the reader entry into a psychologically troubled world. Two stories set in the Miami Beach of the ’60s, “The Rabbi Double-Faults” and “Lost, In a Sense,” are particularly astute in their understanding of the inner life of childhood and the emotional confusions generated by the adult world. The weakest story, “Cattle Car Complex,” reduces these insights to a weak irony worthy of a failed Twilight Zone episode. Rosenbaum is a writer of promise who must learn to eschew the overwrought metaphor and occasional easy irony. The best pieces here are quite good indeed, however, and make their author a voice worth hearing. — Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Elijah Visible: Stories

  • 8 responses to "Elijah Visible: Stories St. Martin’s Press 1st edition Thane Rosenbaum"

  • Ghz != Ghz
    2:52 on July 11th, 2013
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    Mr. Rosenbaum …uses careful- artful -brilliance to display how the surreal horrors of the Holocaust continue to touch and pick at the souls of the children whose parents survived the camps.

  • Jaynine Howard
    3:18 on July 11th, 2013
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    Law Lit is a joy, a compilation of segments from the best of the best, each dealing with law, its ins & outs, its practitioners & observers. I’ve purposely tried to read slowly & refrain from approaching many segments at one time in order to extend the pleasure of reading this wonderful collection.

  • Chadwick
    4:10 on July 11th, 2013
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    This book has made me think about what it means to be a secular Jew in America.For years, my mother has asked me how G-d could have allowedsuch a horrific event as the holocaust to occur, and I would just listen intently and explain that it was not the making of G-d, but of the errors of a human race (Nazism) that has gone evil. Never had I thought of the effect that this tragedy has had on modern Jewish life, and the way that we see OURSELVES according to the perceived silence of our G-d. Thane Rosenbaum has put together a brilliant set of stories about the “disfunctional” Jewish family as a result of the nightmares of our ancestors.The best book I have read in months

  • kwelle
    12:26 on July 12th, 2013
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    Gore Vidal ventured that at a certain age litigation replaces sex. But why? What is it that both attracts and repels us? Lit illuminates the answers. Feel the angels of our better nature by reading the closing argument excerpt from To Kill a Mockingbird; sit with Dr.King as he writes out the whys of disobeying unjust laws in Letter From a Birmingham Jail; feel the straigtforward anguish of those who trangress the law with Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. Thane Rosenbaum’s selction are inspired and often off beat(a closing argument from the TV show The Practice or a letter from the Marquis de Sade, in shackles, on the failures of legal punishment.) There is plenty in lit for a second volume—perhaps an excerpt from Measure for Measure or selections from legal noir fiction. No matter. This volume does not give us answers as much as makes us think on what the answers might be. The volume is well packaged. A gift for lawyers or those who love lit or both.

  • jquatrevingt
    21:01 on July 12th, 2013
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    I wish more people would read this book. As a child of Survivors myself, the author is an excellent writer, giving a truthful portrayal of the life of a 2nd generation adult.
    The first short story, concerning an overworked attorney stuck in an elevator who “believes” it is a cattlecar, is incredible. I am also an attorney, and once worked at a large law firm, as did Posner, the main character in the story. Most lawyers at those firms get little sleep, and therefore, their minds easily play games with them. One of the reviews claimed that this story was “overdone”, but he fails to realize that for some children of Survivors, our minds work like our parents’, in the sense that certain situations remind us of the Holocaust (some call this ‘secondary post-traumatic stress disorder’). Rosenbaum did the best job I
    have ever seen in depicting this.
    The other stories are excellent, as well. One great one, which is humorous, by the way, concerns Posner’s having lit a Yahrzeit candle, which commemorates the anniversary of the death of a parent. His beautiful girlfriend, tipsy, bursts into his house and wants to grab him – although he normally would love this, her careless movements threaten to extinguish the candle, which Posner is bent on saving.
    Rosenbaum has the talent that a great writer must has – his ability to describe a scene is incredible, his characters are well-developed, and, most importantly, he reveals a world that most people cannot know – the world of the 2nd generation. I am so happy that we have him!

  • Wise Man
    1:05 on July 13th, 2013
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    Words cannot describe the effect this book has on you. I was left with such an aching heart and admiration for Rosenbaums’ writing ability. I had never thought about the effect of the holocaust on the children of survivors. Rosenbaum describes, in exquisite detail, the consequences of this horrific event on the survivors and their children.
    Rosnbaum’s writing is brilliant. It is a wonder he is not more well known. His other novels, Second Hand Smoke and the Golems of Gotham, are equally powerful books. His message should be told to all the world so that we can better understand the effects of what was done to our generation of the children of survivors.
    This book is a must read-one that you will never forget.

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