A short story book to keep you in your chair

Timeless Travels: Tales of Mystery, Intrigue, Humor and Enchantment by Joseph Rotenberg, Gefen Publishing House © 2017; ISBN 9789652-299154; 358 pages, $24.95.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – I haven’t finished reading all of Timeless Travels, and that, in part, is because I like to draw out my reading pleasure, rather than rush it.  But there’s another reason I will tell you about later.

Author Joseph Rotenberg is a born story-teller, whether the subject is fiction, or non-fiction, or somewhere in-between, as it was in a piece that San Diego Jewish World recently was granted permission to excerpt: “Torah and Teepees—A Comanche Friend of the Jews.”  Here is a link.

His book is divided into six groupings, all involving Rotenberg’s memories or his imaginings, with a guide at the end of the book to help you distinguish one from the other.  The groupings are stories of Israel; tales of other parts of the world; anecdotes about the United States generally; memories of the Lower East Side of New York; reflections on holidays; and finally, “observations of an ordinary man.”

In that last category, Rotenberg is perhaps  selling himself short.  Enough of his stories will hold your fast attention to conclude that he is a practiced tale-teller, the kind of raconteur who can enliven any party.  And that, simply said, ain’t ordinary.

The other reason I haven’t quite finished Timeless Travels is that I own a magical and somewhat malevolent chair.  Our telephone may not have rung the entire day, but as soon as I sit down in that chair to read a book, the telephone rings, thus interrupting my reading.  In response, I haul myself out of the chair – it’s in the living room – and lumber to my office, finish talking to the caller, and then settle back in the chair.  When I again start to read, you guessed it, the chair in some mysterious fashion sends another signal to the telephone, and the Sisyphean cycle continues.

Now, thanks to Rotenberg’s collection of easy-to-read short stories, I am getting the last laugh.  I can finish one of the stories, maybe even two, before the chair sends out its S-D-R (Stop Don Reading) message.  So I owe Rotenberg a big thank you.  And, if the chair wasn’t so darn comfortable, I would send it out for scrap!

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via donald.harrison@sdjewishworld.com

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