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Books Noted: David Lehman, Yeshiva Boys

 

Scribner, 2009

In his new book, Yeshiva Boys, David Lehman brings together philosophical questions about culture, God, and evil with reminiscences of his youth, and various imagined youths, in poems that are always engaging. Mary Jo Bang says about the book, "Each poem is a set piece in the history of becoming. [The poems] are intelligent, wry, and sometimes lacerating in their moments of melancholic tenderness." The poems are grounded in the cold war era, and Lehman draws on being of a generation of Jews whose immigrant parents experienced the Holocaust. The title poem considers the historical, the sociopolitical, and the personal through a speaker who is an American Jewish spy in Europe reflecting on his life, including a childhood teacher, Rabbi Kafka. The innovative merging of the religious and the noir makes palpable the struggle of holding on to the many parts that make an identity while still being the type of person who questions it all.


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