Stealing History

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In the tradition of essayists like Montaigne and Emerson, Gerald Stern reflects with wit, pathos, rage, and tenderness on 85 years of life. In 70 short, intermingling essays Stern moves nimbly between the past and the present, the personal and the philosophical. Creating the immediacy of dailiness, he writes with entertaining engagement about what he's reading, be it Spinoza, Maimonides, John Cage, Etheridge Knight, James Schuyler, or Lucille Clifton, and then he seamlessly turns to memories of his student years in Europe on the GI Bill, or his political and social action. Interwoven with his formidable recollections are passionate discussions of lifelong obsessions: his conflicted identity as a secular Jew opposed to Israel's Palestine policy; the idea of neighbors in various forms, from the women of Gee's Bend, who together made beautiful quilts, to the inhabitants of Jedwabne, who on a single day in 1941 slaughtered 300 Jews; and issues of justice.