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The Book of Mischief: New and Selected Stories [Kindle Edition]

Steve Stern
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $26.00
Kindle Price: $12.99
You Save: $13.01 (50%)
Sold by: Macmillan
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Book Description

"In the 25 years since [Stern] published his first book, younger Jewish writers have run with a similar shtick . . . But Stern was there first." --The Toronto Globe and Mail

The Book of Mischief triumphantly showcases twenty-five years of outstanding work by one of our true masters of the short story. Steve Stern's stories take us from the unlikely old Jewish quarter of the Pinch in Memphis to a turn-of-thecentury immigrant community in New York; from the market towns of Eastern Europe to a down-at-the-heels Catskills resort. Along the way we meet a motley assortment of characters: Mendy Dreyfus, whose bungee jump goes uncannily awry; Elijah the prophet turned voyeur; and the misfit Zelik Rifkin, who discovers the tree of dreams. Perhaps it's no surprise that Kafka's cockroach also makes an appearance in these pages, animated as they are by instances of bewildering transformation. The earthbound take flight, the meek turn incendiary, the powerless find unwonted fame. Weaving his particular brand of mischief from the wondrous and the macabre, Stern transforms us all through the power of his brilliant imagination.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Stern manages to be both ebullient and caustic, even within perfectly stitched sentences, throughout his cunning and transporting tales of Jewish life. This vital collection of new and previously published works spans a quarter of a century of Stern’s shape-shifting and loving stories of families and enclaves, most notably the Jewish neighborhood in WWI–era Memphis called the Pinch. Here the pragmatic old hands focused on assimilation shun those among them who pursue mystical revelations and run the Neighborhood House, where the greenhorns were taught how to box-step and brush their teeth. Stern’s fablelikeaccountsof mismatched marriages, misfit children, gossip, fear, and folly are stoked by sharp-tongued disputations and philosophical humor and stand as the American descendants of Isaac Babel’s Odessa Tales. Similarly vivid stories take place in New York City during the high tide of Jewish immigration and in Europe, including one about a boy in a death camp. Stern breathes life into every robustly detailed and emotionally nuanced story, lifting the veil between the earthly and the divine to create a radiant book of mischief and magic. --Donna Seaman


Praise for The Book of Mischief: 

Stern's stories are suffused with nostalgia for this lost world. . . . Nothing goes unobserved." —The New York Times Book Review

"[Stern is] a dazzling stylist. . . . The soulful stories in The Book of Mischief deserve to be found." —Dallas Morning News

"Filled with pathos and humor. . . . At its most poignant, Stern's writing . . . peels away at the membranes that divide the present from the past." —The New Republic

"A magisterial collection. . . . Stern's universe is a funny one, but he's honest enough to notice that sometimes we're the punch line." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Stern's prose fuses the magical and the mundane, with an offhandedness that makes the normal seem odd, and the truly odd seem matter of fact. . . . mesmerizing." Bookslut

Praise for The Frozen Rabbi:

“Packed to bursting with epic adventure and hysterical comedy, with grim poignancy and pointed satire . . . Stern embraces every outrageous possibility, in lush, cartwheeling sentences that layer deep mystery atop page-turning action atop Borscht Belt humor.” —The Washington Post Book World

Product Details

  • File Size: 1040 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (September 4, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,530 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous short stories September 18, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Steve Stern's new book of short stories, "The Book of Mischief", is filled with Jews who are caught in all sorts of situations. Divided into four sections - Memphis' "Pinch" area, New York's lower East Side, Europe, and The Catskills - Stern's stories bring the reader an immediate connection with the "place" and "time" of those situations.

Steve Stern's writing has been referred to as "magical realism". In general, most of the stories in "Mischief" do have a surrealistic element. Some don't and those are probably the ones I enjoyed most. (I am an extremely literal reader and don't normally like anything surrealistic. But I loved Stern's stories, so maybe there's hope for me yet.) For anyone having read Stern before, please note that at least two of the stories - the first and the last - have been printed before in "The Wedding Jester". Some of the others may also have been in print before; "Jester" is the only other Stern book I've read.

All the stories are wonderfully and powerfully written. Curiously, the most effective one to me was actually the shortest. Set in the "New York" section, it is a short piece about a seamstress caught in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911. Stern is pitch-perfect as he looks at the last minutes of a doomed young immigrant as her workplace goes up in flames. There's no "magic realism" in the piece; only a mournful look at a trapped life. Stern's stories are usually placed in the past, though there are a few that are in the current day. His look at a Kafka-esque professor in Prague is a snapshot of today's city through the eyes of a teacher, himself caught up in the magic of that beautiful and mysterious city.

Stern writes about Memphis - and the Jewish section, "The Pinch" - with true affection.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant November 2, 2012
By delli
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am in awe of Steve Stern's gifts as a writer. His psychological insights coupled with his magical imagination result in stories that lead the reader into fictional heaven. His characters are so delightfully colorful and uniquely curious that the reader will follow them anywhere Stern's mischief will take them.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bernard Malamud he ain't. December 4, 2012
OK, that's a rather high standard. But I quickly lost patience with these stories. Stern's magical realism lacks the substance and spirituality needed to draw the reader in to an alternate universe. What we end up with is a lot of Yiddish dialect razzle-dazzle to cover up the general emptiness of his narratives. More to the point, the beauty of the best of classic Yiddish literature is in what it has to say about religious faith, tradition, and the ironies and tragedies of Jewish life and history. Humor, of course, is a mainstay of this literature, along with a real feeling for those whom it describes. In contrast, Stern seems detached from and vaguely contemptuous of the people in his stories, whose antics really have no point that I can see. His characters are caricatures rather than real human beings.

Re-read "Angel Levine" instead.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Failed Magical Realism January 5, 2013
By Reader
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Have read three of the stories so far, and will continue, but I'm disappointed. Maybe I'm spoiled by I.B. Singer's style. Stern's comes across to me as unsubtle, tho his descriptions of characters are interesting.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Big Deal October 25, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Book of OK, but Sholom Aleichem. Steve Stern will never be. No matter how humorous he is, and how filled with satire his stories are, Tennessee cannot be transformed into Tevie's shtetle nor the lower east side of New York City. Amazon may find some younger readers who enjoy these tales, but this old person wants to go back to Tevie after reading 20% of The Book of Mischief.
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More About the Author

STEVE STERN's fiction, with its deep grounding in Yiddish folklore, has prompted critics such as Cynthia Ozick to hail him as the successor to Isaac Bashevis Singer. He is the author of critically acclaimed books such as Isaac and the Undertaker's Daughter, winner of the Pushcart Writers' Choice Award; The Wedding Jester, which won the National Jewish Book Award; The Angel of Forgetfulness, one of The Washington Post's Best Books of 2006; and, The North God. Stern currently lives in Balston Spa, New York, and teaches at Skidmore College.

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