Lucky Bruce: A Literary Memoir
Bruce Jay Friedman
Biblioasis, 275 pages $29.95
Bruce Jay Friedman was sent to a charity sleep-away camp in Peekskill, N.Y. each summer. It was sponsored by the Central Jewish Institute and staffed by Israelis counselors. Like most Jews born and bred in the Bronx, Friedman didn’t take well to the outdoors.
But as he writes in his fascinating new book, “Lucky Bruce: A Literary Memoir,” CJI may have provided him with a career path. On Shabbos evenings, the 5-year-olds would gather around a campfire and listen to stories about the Wise Men of Chelm.
“I found the stories [written by Sholom Aleichem] spellbinding,” he writes. “Did they ignite a need in me to take a try at (slightly bent) stories of my own? It’s conceivable….”
The operative words there are “slightly bent.” Friedman is best known as a writer of black humor, a term he himself popularized in America. Though thought of generally as dark or morbid, essentially it is Jewish humor mixed with self-deprecating urban Jewish angst.