Ruminations flow in an endless stream regarding history, people, famous events, and occasions. Gerald Stern, who is almost eight-five years old, states that Christianity has stolen history; he writes that the “Lamb” of the Old Testament has been twisted to represent the “Christ,” to perpetuate wars in the Middle East, to celebrate art that distorts history even further and more. Stern perhaps harbors a hidden anger about the overall effect of the aggregate heresies. Numerous pages celebrate cherished friends, poets, writers, musicians, and more who have graced humanity with distinguished works and whose loss to Stern is immense. The history and current poverty of a destroyed Haiti à la “natural disaster” is mourned and demands attention. Metaphors of the dragonfly, the robin, and more draw forth potent comparisons to the beauty, inhumanity, and insanity globally manifest. Vulgar topics, such as what spitting represents to different people, add humor, horror, and real joy to these reflections. The essay on comedy and the comic personality is brilliant and not to be missed. Stealing History is a literate work that will become a classic collection of essays limning the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Deborah Schoeneman, is a former English teacher/Writing Across the Curriculum Center Coordinator at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and coeditor of Modern American Literature: A Library of Literary Criticism, Vol. VI, published in 1997.