Revisiting the Remains of America's Jewish Vacationland
Available everywhere from Cornell University Press
SELECT ADVANCE PRAISE
"I was there in the glory days of The Catskills and the audiences were tough and demanding. They really sharpened your act. It was do or die. No Borscht Belt, no Mel Brooks."
-- Mel Brooks
“These photographs capture the decay of what once a rich cultural tapestry. I can even visualize it all coming back to life....the fun, the joy...places where I grew up, as a woman and a performer.”
"Great. Weird and Sad."
Marc Maron, stand-up comedian, podcaster, writer, actor, musician, director, and producer
"Susan Sontag famously observed that “all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” One could scarcely imagine a more observant and poetic testimony than Marisa Scheinfeld’s eerie photographic record of the crumbing remains of American Jewry’s mid-century Xanadu, the Borscht Belt. With an archaeologist’s attention to the accumulated layers of history and the passage of time, her melancholic images of ruins, detritus and festering vegetation are haunted by an unseen and undefined presence, providing a visual meditation on abandonment and absence. These photographs invite us to consider the rich history of American Jewish life, the legacy of the Catskills, and the ways in which this complex history is enduringly present and woven into the very fiber of the region."
-- Maya Benton, Curator, International Center of Photography
"The book notes Woody Allen's quip, no doubt delivered at some point from a Borscht Belt stage: "Eighty percent of success is showing up." Some might say that Scheinfeld arrived half a century too late, but her photos reveal that she showed up just in time to discover mutable beauty in tumbledown dreams."
R.C. Baker for The Village Voice
"Melancholy and at times surreal, these decayed, grown-over landscapes and interiors cast a spell. Objects bear silent testimony and conjure up past occupants. This is a book of ghosts, haunting and eloquent."
"I will never forget my childhood in Brooklyn and my days visiting the Catskill Mountains. I worked one summer at Grossinger's as a busboy and it was a memorable experience in my life. It is sad to see these pictures of what once was and what will never be again. They are brilliant photographs and the memories will be indelible in my mind. This is sadly joyful."
-- Larry King
The Borscht Belt portrays "an almost casual apocalypse abandoned to an encroaching wilderness. These images are affectionate without being nostalgic. The wreckage they show is almost lush with new growth and their effect is unusual. The landscape of abandonment still retains signs of vitality - and we're aware of the remarkable impact that this vitality had on American popular culture."
-- Edward Rothstein for The New York Times