A Short His­to­ry of a Tall Jew

  • Review
By – August 31, 2011

You think you already know Philip Lach­man, the tall Jew whose short his­to­ry author Den­nis Danziger chron­i­cles in his affa­ble new nov­el. You’ve seen Lach­man on a sit­com, cer­tain­ly. He’s the Cos­by-esque father fig­ure whose kids see­saw between fight­ing him and lov­ing him. He’s the Fra­zier-esque divor­cé whose ex-wife is dri­ving him insane. He’s the Sein­feld-esque bum­bler who can’t get through a day with­out insult­ing some­one. He’s the Kot­ter-esque Eng­lish teacher who con­nects with his stu­dents and irri­tates the prin­ci­pal. Sad­dled with all of these attrib­ut­es, it’s no won­der Lachman’s hav­ing a hard time of it. His prayers to God, each of which start Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, Cre­ator of it all,” and end some­thing like, let me win just one hear­ing in fam­i­ly court,” along with a dec­la­ra­tion by chap­ter five that he’s going to find some­one to mar­ry with­in a year, seem like a set­up for a per­fect must-see-TV sea­son. But just as you set­tle in, expect­ing the nov­el to take on a 23-minute plot­line, Danziger does some­thing unex­pect­ed. He deft­ly brings Lach­man back from the sit­com abyss, and pulls off a com­pelling and sur­pris­ing­ly heart­warm­ing work of fiction.

Juli Berwald Ph.D. is a sci­ence writer liv­ing in Austin, Texas and the author of Spine­less: the Sci­ence of Jel­ly­fish and the Art of Grow­ing a Back­bone. Her book on the future of coral will be pub­lished in 2021.

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