The first story about the relationship between Brenda and Neil seemed the weakest in the collection. The reference to a bump in the nose being a code for a Jewish nose and having a nose job seemed quaint.
I loved the next story about Ozzie called The Conversion of The Jews. The character Ozzie describes his mother with the lines, “Even when she was dressed up, she didn’t look like a chosen person. But when she lit candles, she looked like something better; like a woman who knew momentarily that God could do anything.” He had called the rabbi a bastard saying he didn’t know anything about God. Scene where Ozzie is on the roof and the rabbi screams for him to get done is magnificent. He acts like a martyr-Jesus illusion. He makes the rabbi knell and say God can make a child without intercourse. He tells his mother and the rabbi that they shouldn’t hit him when he’d asked about Jesus. The chilling last line of the story was, “He jumped right into the center of the yellow net that glowed in the evening’ edge like an overgrown halo. “
In Defender of the Faith, Roth examines self-hating Jew which plague Roth thorough his career. The story is about how the Jewish Sergeant Nathan Marx deals with another Jewish solder who’s been complaining about not being given passes on Shabbos or Passover and says, “Why can’t you be like the rest? Why do you have to stick out like a sore thumb?” The solder says “Because I’m a Jew. I am different. Better, maybe not. But different.” Or “It’s a hard thing to be a Jew, it’s harder to stay one.” The last story is about an attorney Eli who is being pressured by his community to stop a group of Orthodox Jews from wearing their traditional clothing outside of the Yeshiva. The story turns into a stream of consciousness that represents Philip Roth’s mastery of language and plot to end this timeless.