From the Coffee House of Jewish Dreamers is the fourth book that I have received through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program. It also happens to be the second book of poetry that I've acquired through the program--and I must say that I enjoyed this one much more than I did the other. Perhaps because it seemed to be so much more honest and not nearly as pretentious as the other collection came across.
Ben Yehuda Press is both a smaller and newer book publisher, specializing in an innovative and diverse range of Jewish interest materials--from Orthodox to secular to "alienated" sectors of the Jewish population. I was not familiar with Isidore Century or his work before, but am glad that I am now. From the Coffee House of Jewish Dreamers is actually a compilation of two of Century's poetry collections: Poems of the Weekly Torah Portions (a collection of delightful commentaries) and Poems of Wonder and Wandering (a collection of more autobiographical works).
The poetry was wonderful--somewhat straightforward (which is fine, by me), and yet filled with humor, wit, and emotion. The Torah commentaries in particular had me grinning much of the time. I didn't connect quite as well with the Poems of Wonder and Wandering collection, but still found them quite enjoyable, providing an enlightening view into one man's life and spiritual growth. I kept reading aloud portions to my roommate (who is Jewish, though I am not) who appreciated them just as much as I did.
I did find the format of the book somewhat annoying. I'm not sure that publishing it as a "flip-book" (the two collections were back to back and upside down to each other) really did it justice. Additionally, by printing it this way, the glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew terms gets lost in the middle. I didn't even know it was there until after I found it completely by accident.
It is not necessary to be Jewish to enjoy these poetry collections, although it probably adds more depth of understanding. Some familiarity with the Torah stories is helpful, but also not necessary. Century's work is very accessible and can be appreciated by just about anyone--I'm glad that I was introduced, certainly. I would encourage others to seek him out, too.
Not available in a library...