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Matthew Paris

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Post Thu Jan 29, 2004 3:00 pm - K'Tia
K'Tia, A Savior Of The Jewish People

By Roberta Kalechofsky

Anyone who has read anything by Robert Kalechofsky must be haunted immediately by the potential for diversity as well as excellence in human literature. I think Roberta might be a great writer but whatever level of mastery she has reached, nobody could question that she is a dramatically an original. Every sentence has a different music than one has heard before.
If a great Artist is one that redefines the grammar of his art, Roberta is one of the great ones. She has more ways of writing a sentence than nearly anybody. A reviewer is forced to mention only banalities a reader can apprehend instantly; if I were reviewing Shakespeare I would say he is a staunch right winger who believes in family values and everybody would understand me. There is a difference between Shakespeare and nearly all current republicans babbling on the media circuit; before I go further in this review, I want to admit I am totally baffled about how to tell anyone I am reviewing an author who is dramatically like no one else I have ever read. I really donít want to think about describing a sort of genius. Letís get down to those banalities we all know and love. Letís start getting objective; letís identify the subject matter. Roberta writes brilliantly about Jews in the Roman Empire, people in the Spanish Inquisition, tales of Nazis and pogroms. The cultural environment is harsh, crazy, or decadent as we potchky through the millennia.
Does this begin to describe the wonderful myriad angles with which Roberta garlands her subject matter, the virtuosity of her music with a sentence, the light and yet ironically passionate way she handles her erudition, the levels of satire and impasto of social and philosophical stains she apples to her materials? Hardly. I really want to write about Robertaís execution; I am constrained to say merely: if you want to know what a joy it is to be in the presence of vintage literary caviar, read this book.
Most of this collection of tales were I to relate the plot would suggest a doleful reading experience. One might no less Homer. Imagine Homerís epicís told by a tyro and the result would be leaden and dismal. Roberta certainly is writing about people trying to survive in the nightmare of history; her verve, humor, virility and iron intellect rescue her material from the pathetic.
None of these stories are directly and simply told. They are often detached, seem from a recondite angle. When she wants to, she can produce a stunningly effective personal cri de coeur of an old man whose deep and precise sense of virtue gives a Dantesque power to his erotic and amatory obsession. The range and literary resource of these historical tales make them delicious etudes in the range of means of execution available to a master of words.
Whether we are dealing with the Faustian presence of Domitian or the more folksy world of Bessarabia Roberta has presented us with more ways of telling a story than we knew were possible before we read her latest book. Anyone who loves the pure and sheer delight of literary mastery should read Roberta Kalechofsky.

Micah Publications
255 Humphrey St.
Marblehead, MA
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