scorecardresearch

Rhoda Lerman, at 79; novelist who defied categorization

NEW YORK — Rhoda Lerman, whose critically praised novels melded history with contemporaneity, mythology with social criticism, feminism with a Jewish sensibility, and snark with seriousness, died on Aug. 30 at her home in Port Crane, N.Y., near Binghamton.

The cause at age 79 was complications of thyroid cancer, said her husband, Bob.

Ms. Lerman was a difficult writer to categorize because her imagination was eccentric and because her books didn’t resemble one another. A lush stylist with a vivid, sarcastic wit and a taste for ribaldry, she was sometimes compared to Philip Roth for her wicked depictions of the battle of the sexes.

Advertisement



Her debut, “Call Me Ishtar” (1973), a lampoon of the values of a suburban patriarchal culture, reincarnates the Near Eastern title deity, a goddess of love, war, and fertility, as a housewife in upstate New York.

Her second, “The Girl That He Marries” (1976), was a more straightforward satire about a romance between a young Jewish man and the young gentile who sets her cap for him.

In other books, she veered from satire to other interests.

Ms. Lerman, the former Rhoda Carol Sniderman, was born in Far Rockaway, Queens.