Margoshes’ stories capture Jewish New York

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December 12, 2012

A Book of Great Worth
By Dave Margoshes
Published by Coteau Books, 250 pages, $18.95
Reviewed by Isa Milman

Dave Margoshes captivated me from the first page of his book of linked stories. I thought I was reading a memoir of his father and his family life in New York, but it was only after the first two pieces that I realized that it wasn’t really a memoir, but short stories masquerading as memoir. A beautiful hybrid, a labradoodle of a book. Far from confusing me, this boundary blurring increased my pleasure, as Margoshes’s story-telling is a feat of seamless cross-breeding, bringing out the endearing qualities of each genre, while creating something adorable, in the original sense of this word.

I was grateful to be brought back to Jewish New York of the 1920s and ‘30s, the life and times of a Yiddish newspaperman and his newspaper sons, and the cast of characters that made up their world, a world now virtually gone. I saw the sunset of this world as a young woman in the ‘60s, when I tramped the streets of the Lower East Side, frequenting the delis and coffee shops and dives, reading The Forward ever so haltingly in Yiddish while looking for summer temp jobs, but you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate Jewish New York. Margoshes brings you home to meet his parents, invites you to the local haunts for a drink and a schmooze, rides the subway with you to Harlem, Brooklyn and Coney Island, even takes you up to the Catskills. He delivers a complete experience, including matters of the heart and soul, in a language and style that’s rich in all the important details and note perfect.

I save my pleasure reading for bed, which is a good and not so good thing when a review is called for, because it’s hard to take notes. Every night for a week I’d read a story or two, before turning out the light with a smile on my face. I managed to put a pink sticky note at the beginning of the title story, which is probably my favourite of the collection, but they are all so damn good. Mazal tov, Dave Margoshes, on a book of great accomplishment.

Isa Milman is a poet and visual artist who has called Victoria home for the last sixteen years. Her first two poetry collections have each won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Poetry. Her new collection, Something Small to Carry Home, was recently released

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