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170 SHOFAR Winter 1996 Vol. 14, No.2 the Iberian Peninsula, especially in Amsterdam. On the one hand, rising secularism in the new Jewish milieu by skeptic conversos and the lay teachings of Spinoza (1632-1677) fulfilled the highest aspiration among various segments of the communities in a society devoid of religious duress. On the other hand, this new trend rejected the basic theo-political principles of Judaism, for it accentuated deistic notions: that in place of OrthodoxJudeo-Christian conceptions ofGod as being involved in shaping and sustaining human history, God was to withdraw into detached transcendence, leaving the world to operate according to rationaVnatural rules. Or, in Faur's words: Spinoza and his circle of supporters developed the notion of a secular state that is a religious kingdom, where the sovereign takes the place of God and the State is the ultimate authority of spirituality. It was the struggle between the sacred and the profane in Amsterdam that resulted both in Spinoza's being excommunicated and in further ideological bewilderment in the new milieu. Faur's analysis is truly delightful and refreshing not only in relevance to the conversos, but in challenging outmoded theories about Sephardi history and historiography in the European continent. His book is a major contribution to Sephardi scholarship. The one shortcoming of the book, however, is that it is somewhat disjointed, with one chapter not necessarily flowing into the next. The readers will appreciate the brilliance of Faur's work when it is read as individual essays rather than an integrated study. Michael M. Laskier Beit Berl College and Ashkelon College of Bar-Ilan University, Israel Mercy of a Rude Stream, Vol. I: A Star Shines over Morris Park, by Henry Roth. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. 290 pp. $23.00. Sixty years after publication of his first novel, CallIt Sleep, Henry Roth has produced a second. Mercy ofa Rude Stream, Vol. I: A Star Shines over Morris Park provides first proof of what F. Scott Fitzgerald thought unachievable in American lives: a second act. The novel-to be the first of six-was written in a mobile home park in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the late 1980s. The narrative centers on a brownstone building in New York's Harlem around World War I. The gap between the life and times of the 8-year-old Jewish protagonist, Ira Stigman, and the octogenarian author-both born in 1906-is bridged by Book Reviews 171 imaginary conversations between the author and his computer, cobbled into the narrative as ongoing commentary. The device allows the author to narrate from the perspective of a boy, while breaking in to comment as a man. To explore the differences between the boy, securely and artlessly Jewish, and the de-shtetlized, cosmopolitan author is what seems to have sent Roth back along his life's trail. He probes for the social forces and personal decisions that eventually destroyed the coherent sense of self necessary for a talented young author-himself-to write novels, and led to a fIfty-year writer'S block that was fInally overcome, apparently, only by a rebirth of Roth's Judaism and his love for his wife. Perhaps because ofthe magnitude ofRoth's search, the book-unlike the lyrical Sleep-starts slowly. Much is told rather than shown, and the early metaphors and adjectives do not grip at least this reader. But as the author opens old trunks of memory and fuses their contents with narrative inventions, the story takes hold. It passes from a catalogue-like recreation of the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes ofJewish life many decades past, into experiences happening around or to the narrator, to a lengthy fInal scene that portrays Ira's fIrst conscious dissociation from Judaism in the basement of a high-class grocery that also bootlegs liquor. Roth's talent is so large that even his apparently aimless opening manner sporadically brings the times to life. "Syrup simple was sugarwater , wasn't it? ... [The druggist] ... knew when to prescribe ... the dried berries that Mom brewed into a tea and were so pleasantly laxative; when to prescribe citrate of magneSia-which was kept on ice, was cold and bubbly...


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