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Borscht Belt Bungalows Hardcover – January 22, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

For more than half a century, until about 1970, legions of middle-class Jewish workers and businessmen moved their families each summer from crowded New York quarters to Catskill bungalow colonies and communal settlements known as kuchaleins (literally: ``cook alones''). This is the colorful but hitherto scanted kuchalein story. Richman's (American Studies and History/Penn. State Univ.) family owned and managed a typical colony during the heyday of the bungalows. He fondly recounts seemingly everything about the business. Mothers and the kids would occupy the rustic mountain dwellings for ``the season'' (July Fourth to Labor Day) and fathers would appear, frequently burdened with provisions, for the weekends. (The provisions were often considered contraband because the owners, playing ``farmer,'' sold produce to the captive guests.) The story is knowingly presented from the point of view of the landlord, traditionally depicted as a penny-pinching villain, but here naturally presented in fuller dimensions. Along with business matters, there is much about traditional cuisine and amateur theatricals, kids' frolics, water and sewer arrangements, swimming in the Neversink, daily routines, and holiday practices. Particulars abound regarding sneaking into the grand hotels nearby or fishing for trout with rye bread for bait. There are descriptions of artifacts like cow flop, ice cream frappes, and flypaper. Richman's style is simple and direct. The text turns a tad wistful as he describes the scene today, dominated by coops with Hasidim and the newly Orthodox. Sure, the old days were halcyon, but the unrelenting sifting through the detail is like sitting in a schvitz (a sweat lodge with a Yiddish accent) with a genial but garrulous old uncle blessed with total recall. A pleasant Borscht Belt memoir, much like a Borscht Belt meal: excessive beyond nourishment, but hey, why not try a little? (62 b&w photos, not seen) (For the grander side of life in the Catskills, see Richard Grossinger's Out of Babylon, p. 1622.) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review

"There are very few people who could do such a fine job of recapturing for us the remarkable world of the Catskill bungalow colonies." --Phil Brown, Brown University "Richman delights the reader, not only with portraits of the people who rented the bungalows, but with the activities that occupied their time. He tells us of the small time entertainers who often began their careers in the mountain hotels and casinos and more often than not, ended their entertainment careers there too...well worth reading and, for some of us, evok[ing] long forgotten, pleasant memories." --Jewish Journal "Richman's style is simple and direct...A pleasant Borscht Belt memoir, much like a Borscht Belt meal: excessive beyond nourishment, but hey, why not try a little?" --Kirkus Reviews "A Jewish-American pastoral? Thoreau in the Catskills? Irwin Richman's marvelous Borscht Belt Bungalows is as much a literary work--a retrospect of country summers, now history--as a scholarly study...Let no reader of this lively first-person narrative be deceived that this is just a reminiscence, without scholarly depth. Richman collected an amazing range of information on Borscht Belt life and gracefully folds it into his memories." --Anne C. Rose, Pennsylvania History "Richman is particularly suited to give us this historical overview, as a professor of American studies and history and as one who has made the pilgrimage to the mountains nearly every summer of his life, first to the bungalow colony of his grandparents and later as an employee at similar establishments. ...Richman is nostalgically superb in his recall of the importance of these annual gatherings in the communal context of an immigrant people, liberally quoting from fiction and nonfiction writings on this era and this place." --Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 207 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press (January 22, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566395852
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566395854
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Richman tells a story that only he could tell.His humorous, nostalgic account of the Catskill's golden era and its decline is one worth reading.
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