Sunday Jews

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June 07, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

SUNDAY JEWS Hortense Calisher (Harcourt, $28) Zipporah Zangwill is an anthropologist, a mother of six, a grandmother of many. Peter Duffy, her husband of four decades, is a philosopher beset by senility. When Zipporah assembles her brood to announce that she and Peter are leaving New York for Europe, the clan crowds into their ”rambling apartment” — ”children squeezed together on the floor, grown-ups perched on the arms of chairs, bathroom doors flapping.” Calisher’s impressively dense novel resembles that family room: crammed with arch dialogue, bulging with baroque narration and long setups for quick jokes, stuffed with chatter about tribal customs as practiced from Asia Minor to Central Park West. Zipporah and Peter head to Italy with a mysterious nurse. The kids keep growing up. The wit and insight of these intertwined character studies doesn’t let up for 694 pages, but neither does the self-conscious marvelousness.

Sunday Jews

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