essential condition of tiie Jewish people,”rninevitably secularizes as well the supernaturalrnunderstanding of “Israel” —rnmeaning those who know God —byrnwhich the Jews defined the social entityrnthey so long constituted. The framing ofrnthe issue facing the Jews, the selectionrnand orchestration of events into an historicalrnnarrative—these beg the theologicalrnquestion that Vital finds himself imablernto confront.rnAny history should allow us to makernsense of what happened next, but Vital’srnstor)’ of the Jews in Europe does not preparernus for what took place after 1939—rnwhich is nothing less than the rebirth notrnonly of the state of Israel but of the Jews inrnEurope and of Europe’s overseas diasporasrn—in North and Latin America, for example.rnAnd so the logic of the Zionistrnreading of Jewish history shatters againstrnthe fact of continuity beyond 1939—therncontinuity, especially, of Zionism itselfrnJacob Neusner is Distinguished ResearchrnProfessor of Religious Studies at thernUniversity of South Florida and arnprofessor ofreUgion at Bard College.rnFirst Things Firstrnby Bill CrokernSome Horsesrnby Thomas McGuanernIllustrations by Buckeye BlakernNew York: The Lyons Press;rn176 pp., $22.95rnOnce, in a Paris bookstore, biographerrnLeon Edel heard ErnestrnHemingway’s take on T.E. Lawrence’srnSeven Pillars of Wisdom. “Camels!” bellowedrnPapa. “Camels!” In his new book,rn’i’homas McGuane has given us Horses!rnHorses!rnThere is a theory that the artist who investsrntoo much intellectual capital in thernpursuit of sport or hobbies cheapens, orrnstints, his art. For 30 years —in a dozenrnbooks—Thomas McGuane has beenrnone of the Wesfs foremost chroniclers ofrnrile sweeping change and daily vagariesrnof life in America’s fastest-growing region.rnBut Mr. McGuane has not publishedrna novel since 1992 {Nothing ButrnBlue Skies), occupying himself in the interimrnwith the writing of essays on thernblood sports and a subject close to hisrnheart—horses. Some Horses (completernwith a Cormac McCarthyesque dustrnjacket) is his latest effort in this vein.rnThe long holiday from the demandsrnof fiction raises two questions: Has McGuanerngiven up on tiie novel as his primaryrnform of literary expression, a formrnwith which he has previously dazzledrnreaders (e.g., of T/ze Bushwhacked Piano,rnNinety Two in the Shade, Keep thernChange) wifii his virtuosity? And has hernbecome the sort of complacent writerrnwho sli])s easily into the limbo of updatedrnreprints (three of the nine pieces in SomernHorses were cut from the herd of his 1982rncollection of sporting pieces. An OutsidernChance)?rnSome Horses is dedicated to BusterrnWelch, a Texan and legendary cuttingrnhorse trainer much admired by Mr.rnMcGuane. Mr. Welch’s six-decade careerrnas horseman and rancher is the subjectrnof the eponymous “Buster,” in whichrnhe instructs the writer in his cabalisticrnequine art. McGuane’s regard for hisrnmentor is such that he can write:rn. . . an nnbroke horse is original unmodeledrnclay that can be broughtrnto a level of great beauty or else remainrnin its original muddy form,rndully consuming protein with therngreat mass of living creatures on thernplanet, but a cutting horse is a workrnof art.rnThe best of the three reprints, “ThernLife and Hard Times of Chink’s Benjibaby”rnis a comic rumination on the life of arnmuch admired, talented, and extremelyrndifficult cutting horse. McGuane is fascinatedrnby this mare’s cutting skill andrnhigh-strung hijinks, which include routinelyrnwrecking stalls and horse-trailersrnand causing near riots at cutting horserncompetitions: “The first description I everrnhad of Chink’s Benjibaby was that shernwas the horse that jumped out of the ElrnPaso Coliseum.” Another reprint, “AnotherrnHorse,” is at best an amusing piecernabout an elk season camping trip, ratherrnthan one about horses. In fact, horsesrnplay only a small part in the story, beingrn—like tents, trails, and mountainsjustrnpart of the scenery. The essay is arnvivid paean to life in the Montana Rockies,rnthe sort of writing at which McGuanernexcels, yet in the overall scheme of thernbook it is nothing more than stylish boilerplate.rnIn “Roping from A to B,” McGuanernwrites humorously about his days (20rnyears ago by now) as an amateur teamrnroper on the local Montana summerrnrodeo circuit.rnMy own mental drill is based onrnadvice from a fine old roper: “Rememberrnone thing when you backrnyour horse into the box. There arernnine hundred million Chinesernwho don’t care whether you catchrnthe steer or not.”rnAt essay’s end, the author competes in arnrodeo in Gardiner, Montana, and withrnhis partner wins the team roping event,rnproving that he isn’t merely a writer withrn”Ivory Snow hands.”rn”Roanie” is the nickname of McGuane’srnown “Lucky Bottom 79,” definitelyrna soulmate (I would guess that Mr.rnMcGuane believes horses to have souls)rnto the aforementioned Chink’s Benjibaby.rnRoanie takes a routine trip to the veterinarian,rnwhere the gelding misbehavesrnand is returned home like an incorrigiblernschoolchild with a curt, clinical noternfrom the vet that reads: “Lucky Bottomrn79’s rectal temperature not taken as herncontinually endangered human life.”rnMcGuane is indeed fond of the cuttingrnhorse competition circuit, as he relatesrnin “Sugar” and —especially—”Onrnthe Road Again.” In the latter stor’, herntakes a tour with his wife, four horses, variousrntools and horse supplies, and somernof the more necessary items for modernrnsurvival such as a microwave oven and arncolor TV: The “Horsabago” is a “modernrnfarm at seventy-five miles per hour.”rnMcGuane is good at describing the dustyrnsuburban arenas populated by diehardrnenthusiasts of his arcane sport. And thenrnthere are his funny insights on haulingrnhis 38-foot rig on the L.A. freeway system:rn”Oncoming traffic was pouring into myrnflanks from either side until I was part ofrna southbound general river of metal, confinedrnin four direcfions to the gestalt of arnseventy-two-mile-an-hour traffic jam.”rnAlso, Mr. McGuane has a comic adventure,rnlying under the Horsabago andrnworking to repair the RV’s portablernsewage system, which I’ll leave to thernreader’s imagination. Altogether, thernpiece amounts to a compelling argumentrnfor staying home and avoiding the modernrnmulti-crazy existence of life in the fastrnlane. The collection closes with “ArnFoal,” a beautifully rendered vignette onrnthe advent of “a new horse.”rnNOVEMBER 1999/33rnrnrn