Books: Seltzering Holes

A SUMMER WORLD by Stefan Kanfer

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

333 pages; $22.95

Popularly known as the Borscht Belt, the Catskill mountains some 60 miles north of Manhattan were where generations of New York City's Jews went to play. The area's hotels specialized in big-league eating, nonstop schmoozing and lavish nighttime entertainment. The most serious summertime sport was the mating game, with anxious mothers steering their daughters at those waiters known to be in medical or law school.

Stefan Kanfer, a novelist (Fear Itself, The International Garage Sale) and TIME contributor, proves to be a robust and resourceful stand-up historian as...