Books: For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges

By Nathan Englander

This is a knowing collection of nine unorthodox stories about Orthodox Jews that should make their author persona non grata in the devout enclaves of his co-religionists. That reaction would be understandable. Englander, once Orthodox himself, tells tales out of shul that include the title story, in which a rabbi grants an unhappy husband permission to visit a prostitute. Yet Englander's apostasy is always affectionate and imaginative. The Gilgul of Park Avenue, for example, offers up a Wall Street Wasp who inexplicably discovers that he has a Jewish soul. The domestic and professional ramifications read like a collaboration between Cynthia Ozick...

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