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July 25, 2003 - Image 57

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-07-25

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`Middle of the Night," a debut collection
of short stories, has Midwestern, Jewish themes.

mothers and the breakup of families
are central to a number of the stories
(though, strangely, the title story,
describing the death of the narrator's
idwesterners who are
mother in the middle of the night,
frustrated by the fact
was omitted from this volume and
that American Jewish
published elsewhere).
literary life seems to
This poignancy is most strongly felt
focus almost exclusively on the two
coasts should find Daniel Stolar's first in "Marriage Lessons," in which the
first-person female narrator (a rarity
collection of stories, The Middle of
for a male author) has to cope with
(Picador;
$23),
a
pleasant
the Night
the death of her mother and a search
relief, with its focus on the St. Louis
for a father she never knew before she
Jewish community.
can commit to her relationship with
More to the point, this volume is a
her future husband.
wonderful assortment of poignant,
"The Trip Home" is the story of a
well-crafted works of fiction that
man
who believes he has happily
should stay with the reader long after
remarried after the
he or she has finished
death of his first
reading them.
wife, only to find
The Midwestern
that he can barely
locale in the stories
hold his life together.
(mostly St. Louis,
The first story in
though one pair of
the
volume, "Jack
characters is from
Landers
is My
Kansas City) goes
Friend," demon-
beyond the use of
strates another type
familiar street names.
of loss — a man
It has more to do
attending a reunion
with an atmosphere in
and learning that he
which Jewishness can-
still regrets a roman-
not be taken for grant-
tic relationship that
ed and has become
never happened.
equated with a liberal
My favorite story
outlook on life for peo-
in the collection,
ple who "would rather
however, is "Crossing
have our children turn
Tuscon-based author Daniel
Over," which
out gay than
Stolar, a Harvard graduate,
describes the life of a
Republican."
completed two years at the
Jewish
college stu-
St. Louis is not so
Yale School of Medicine before dent who feels the
much a metropolis as
earning his M.F.A. from the
need to connect with
an overgrown small
University of Arizona.
African-Americans to
town, "a metropolitan
discover something of
area of 2.5 million
his true self.
where people spent their entire lives
When he pledges an otherwise all-
asking you where you went to high
black
fraternity, he is forced to con-
school," the author reveals.
front the fact that his liberalism pre-
But the common theme that ties
vents him from truly assimilating into
these stories together is a melancholic
the black community and that a part
sense of loss.
of himself will always remain unful-
The author has dedicated the book
filled.
to the memory of his mother, Mary
Daniel Stolar is a skillful storyteller,
Goldstein Stolar, and the loss of
and one never has a feeling that he is
trying to drive home a message at the
expense of the narrative. Each story
Stuart Lewis holds a doctoral degree in
English from Colorado University and is proceeds carefully to a climax that
puts the events into perspective. He is
the Kansas City district manager of the
clearly an author we should keep our
Rail Road Retirement Board. He is a
eyes on.
regular Jewish Chronicle book reviewer.

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Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

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57

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