Used price: $1.49
Collectible price: $9.53
Buy one from zShops for: $17.53
To call this funny but heartbreaking short novel the best first novel of 1997 may be a disservice. I think it may rank as one of the best of the year, period. It lacks the epic sweep of Pynchon's "Mason and Dixon" and the pretensions of Delillo's great though flawed "Underworld". At 187 pages it is dwarfed by both of them in length. But it packs a wallop, nevertheless.
The story centers on Izzy, forty-something WWII veteran, and the variously aged men who hang out at Bald Sam's diner in 1949 Brooklyn. They talk baseball, current events (the Bomb, Communism) and endlessly recycle the many ethnic (mostly Jewish) jokes, which have formed the fabric of their lives in the shadow of the Holocaust. Stephen Bloom gives us a good taste of post-war New York, much as Delillo does in "Underworld".
Izzy is not quite right in some unexplained sense as a result of the war. He has a 90% disability pension, which he supplements by playing his concertina in the streets. But we soon learn in bits and pieces that what really haunts Izzy isn't the war but a Pogrom in 1919 back in his hometown in Poland. During this pogrom, Izzy's father is brutally murdered, so bloodied that Izzy doesn't recognize his father's corpse when he first sees it.
The foregoing is undeniably grim and it is worth noting that Izzy never tells the jokes, which are peppered throughout, the novel. Nevertheless, the novel is often quite humorous. The jokes themselves are a commentary on the life struggles, both major and minor, of Izzy and his friends. The jokes point up the fact that while jokes are often told at someone's expense, they also serve to cushion life's blows.
The novel ends as it opens: life (and death) goes on.
Used price: $46.95
Collectible price: $55.86
Buy one from zShops for: $99.95
Used price: $7.00
Collectible price: $12.16
Buy one from zShops for: $17.00
After ordering this book and wading through its first few chapters, I had one overwhelming thought:
Thank you, Amazon.com, for your marvelous return policy.
Bloom is one of our better critics in terms of readability, but still... Unless you have a great appetite for arid erudition, just stick to reading the poetry itself. This book has more to do with some pet theory of Bloom's than with Stevens' poetry, or our climate--both of which could have been fascinating subjects for a book.
Used price: $0.90
Collectible price: $9.53
Buy one from zShops for: $1.49
Used price: $15.00
Buy one from zShops for: $33.38
Used price: $6.49
Collectible price: $10.95
Buy one from zShops for: $6.99
Used price: $11.75
Buy one from zShops for: $11.73
Used price: $31.52
Buy one from zShops for: $29.95
Used price: $27.53
Collectible price: $50.00
Used price: $9.45