Stealing HistoryThe diary of a brilliant mind and a cultural observer unlike any other in our time
In eighty-four short, intermingling essays, Gerald Stern moves nimbly between the past and the present, the personal and the philosophical. Creating the immediacy of dailiness, he writes about what he’s reading at the moment, be it Spinoza or John Cage, Maimonides or Lucille Clifton, and then seamlessly turns to memories ...
Stern meditates on the Lamb in Christianity and Judaism. He explores the mysterious life of the dragonfly in all its permutations and examines the comedy of the Marx Brothers and the idea of adultery in Noel Coward’s film Brief Encounter. Interwoven with his formidable recollections (Stern, it would seem, forgets nothing) are the author’s passionate discussions of his lifelong obsessions: issues of justice; his identity as a secular Jew who has strong objections to Israel’s political positions; and the idea of neighbors in various forms—from the women of Gee’s Bend who together make astonishing quilts to the Polish inhabitants of the small town of Jedwabne, who on a single day in 1941 slaughtered 1,600 Jews. Revealing a poet engaged with imagination, memory, and witness, and written in Stern’s signature, associative style, Stealing History is a significant literary achievement by one of our most celebrated poets.
“Gerald Stern is one of those writers whose style insinuates itself into your consciousness like a catchy tune, so that you find your thoughts echoing its rhythms, bopping from one to another, back and forth, like thought and language doing a jitterbug.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
BR>“There is no warning as to where Jerry, as his many friends call him, will strike next as he roams about his long and productive life.” — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“It is patient and wise, but also frenzied, angry—kind of wild. It’s loose and free, but also elegantly written. The work is a trip, full of humor, wit and wisdom. The kind of thing you read in slow, measured sips. It's your grandfather on Sunday afternoons, after his scotch, plunked down on the beat-up old armchair that became his honorary pedestal.”
— San Antonio Express-News
“By turns Talmudic and profane, unsentimental and heartbreaking: the poet transforms himself in these essays into a Tristram Shandy for our times, a Montaigne who finds in the intricate unspooling of experiences, outrages, and joys a perspective that is generous, wise, and cut through with wit.”— Walter Mosley
- Foreword Review Book of the Year Awards - Essay