The Wig

9 Feb

The Wig

Glassgold, Irene M., The Wig $ Other Stories
San Bernardino CA, 2013, 79 pp., pbk
ISBN: 9781482311754

The doughty Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco offers writers evenings together reading and evaluating their work; novels, poetry, short stories, biography, memoir. The circles have grown from “a long” and “a short(and miscellaneous)” pair of groups meeting on alternate Monday nights, to comprise about five groups, one devoted to poetry and one meeting in the afternoon.

Early in one of the Monday night groups, Irene Glassgold presented short stories about a rabbi who was something of a detective, capped only by his wife equally immersed in uncovering nefarious plots. The location was Baltimore, Maryland with the rabbi and wife being Orthodox Jews. I don’t remember whether they were immigrants or first-generation Americans, but the piety and rituals were redolent of time-honored practice.

Family illness required Glassgold to step out of the group. Later she joined an afternoon group. her Her production continued for The Wig & Other Stories was published last fall. Those intriguing detective plots were missing, but Glassgold’s prose still presents a vivid portrait of Jewish family life in a Baltimore enclave.

If you wanted an intense, closely knit circle of family and friends, Glassgold presents it, Jewish style, all its detail, foibles, mild dietary indulgences ritualistically enjoyed. Think Fiddler on The Roof immigrated who have partially adjusted.

The Wig tells you about the wife who manages to substitute a scarf for the married women’s wig. Amulets are discussed, the subtle ambiance evoked when friends or relatives came to Baltimore from New York or a character takes the train to purchase something major in New York. Several young Jewish girls are “adopted” from Europe, the matter of family earrings, and a taffeta dress bought the day Franklin Roosevelt died.

The Wig
mints the ordinary simply, richly shaded, redolent of irony, fascinating in its reflection of Jewish life moving from orthodoxy into mainstream American life.

I just wish Irene Glassgold will get back to the detective tales p.d.q.

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