These past few days of recovery have given me unexpected but most welcome chances for some special kinds of reading: most particularly, things I’ve read and loved in the past, but never seemed to have the kind of time to reread in totality. Among them are a goodly number of short books and stories that I’ve known and treasured for ages, but, in truth, kept only in memory. I’d like to recommend a trio of these personal “treasures” for you now — for your own reading and learning pleasure.
1. ‘Address Unknown,’ by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor
First published in 1938, this book was a fictional prewar wakeup call to America about the dangers of the “new Germany” that was emerging under Hitler and turning against its Jews with a new viciousness. The story is presented in a series of letters between two men who had worked together for years as co-owners of a successful fine-arts business in San Francisco — one a Jew, the other a German. When the latter decides to move his family back to his native Berlin, the inevitable deterioration of their once brotherly relationship causes horrors for both in a tale you can read in an hour, but will find yourself going back to read again and again…
2. ‘The Dwarf,’ by Pär Lagerkvist
This book, first published in 1945, won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Literature for its Swedish author, who was hailed then as “a giant of modern classicism” by the influential Saturday Review of Literature. And Dorothy Canfield, a highly respected American critic of the time, advised her American readers: “Don’t miss this; you will not soon find another like it. The evil in the dwarf’s nature is in ours, too — it is universal.” I bought my paperback edition for $1.95 and have long wished I’d spent the then-going price for clothbound: $5.95!
3. ‘Generation to Generation,’ by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
This book is subtitled “Personal Recollections of a Chassidic Legacy.” Published in 1985, it entertains while it teaches, as did the author himself, who worked with drug-addicted teenagers at a psychiatric hospital in Pittsburgh — my own home city. I treasure my personally signed copy, which he gave to me when my son married the daughter of his closest friends and fellow shul-goers; it then sold for $14.95 The stories — like their author — are most precious at any cost!
Summer will soon be here — may it bring happy reading to all my TJP friends!
Harriet Gross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.