All George ran out of his to the library where he Hadn T Been In t been in There were books over the place wherever he looked and though he was struggling to control an inward trembling he easily counted off a hundred then sat down at a table to read Bottom line first Bernard Malamud is a writer of fine tightly crafted prose The subject matter and emotional content are not likely to be of interest to ounger readers The Magic Barrel is not light summer beach read short stories If one considers the mood these are appropriate for late fall and its increasing darkness Something like a short story version of singing the blues There is little objectionable in the way of sex violence or crude language A lot of my decision to read Bernard Malamud s The Magic Barrel had to do with my having
read this author Getting into the stories I could not shake the feeling that he was speaking to 2019 in ways he could not have planned At the thin side I had read about how much several others could not appreciate New Yorker modern fiction where nothing happens On a larger scale there is so much in the air about the threat of immigrants I do not know if Bernard ever published in the New Yorker but he was one of a generation of New York Area Jewish writers many from nearby New Jersey but close enough who wrote of their community s impoverished or near impoverished immigrant experience It can be said that little happens but we see deeply into the emotional lives of the men who figure at the center of all 13 stories Besides Jewish immigrants Magic Barrel includes a few stories of The Asian-African Conference, Bandung, Indonesia, April 1955 young American men in Italy also in financial straits and dependent on the locals Malamud s stories can be moralistic or romantic or even amusing The latter is humorous in the sense of calamity on calamity until the reader either collapses under the weight or sees the pilling on as an elaborate joke Risking a spoiler these are all sad stories Loneliness poverty fear lack of confidence psychic and cultural dislocation are the predominate themes People don t write short stories with such simplicity and clarity any Like parables from the bible for a generation of Jewish men and women still reeling from the horrors of the holocaust and trying to make the best of immigrant life in America or brief jaunts abroad The characters ordinary folks who tend grocery stores clean buildings fix shoes always seem to run up against a single opponent who may also be well meaning and serves as the guard between them and their simple dreams To stay in an apartment or find a new one To find a wife andor love To pay for a tombstone or support a store To write in peace These are not grand dreams which is precisely what makes these stories so heartbreaking and poignant to read even 60ears later Notes on a Narrow Slice of LifeSo who could say that Bernard Malamud didn t write well Not me He writes very well indeed These 13 stories mainly about first generation Jewish immigrants in America but also about visitors to Italy from America capture so much of life in a society where one is an outsider that feeling of being here but not here or of living in a country but not belonging The wasted ex coffee salesman the harassed landlord the loner rabbinical student they all seem to pulsate with failure with uncertainty and fatal mistakes Ah this is a book about life all right but it s a book in which the vision is almost tunnel vision Every single story without exception deals with people who cannot rise to their own imaginations of themselves They meet frustration failure death or disappointment they are deflected from any purpose they might have once had They are melancholy shades of fruitless endeavor Does even one reach his ambition They are all male No the student doesn t find a house in Rome the would be art critic abandons his research the would be lover lies about his Jewish origins and loses the beautiful girl the buyer on credit never pays back the so called reader never reads the shoemaker allows his daughter to marry an unsuitable man Only once after humiliating an angel to tears does an old man admit his mistake and save his wife from death and this occurs in the only fantasy among the thirteen Most of the characters lose their labors come to naught they grow wiser but sadder I would assume that Malamud himself felt an outsider everywhere comfortable nowhere If that is not true his dreams must have been filled with worry because this is a most melancholy collection Does anyone smile Does anyone laugh Does anyone dash down the street radiant with love No Life is full of personal shortcomings a bald spot a stubborn rejection of family an inability to swim or make money Frustration and lies run rampant people certainly do shoot themselves in the foot again and again Life is a tragedy life always ends in disappointment these are truths told in half the literature of the world but there is to our humble existence than that Even when Malamud writes a humorous story it is filled with underlying doubt in human nature concentrating on the tendency of people to try to be what they are not If Wie man eyn teutsches Mannsbild bey Kräfften hält you want thirteen superb stories to illustrate that sad point of view here they are Ifou think life is of a mixed bag then perhaps this book will only depress ou. Ut the immigrant experience It is high point in the modern American short story Few books of any kind have managed to depict struggle frustration heartbreak with such delight or such artistryIntroduction by Jhumpa Lahi. ,Not Read This Author
Ories by a Jewish American author are set in Italy of all places and why he populates those stories with educated oung men instead of the impoverished old world geezers of his New York tales And we would circle back to the big why uestions of those endings uestions I am woefully unprepared to answer Like a Malamud protagonist just imagine me as an elderly Jewish shopkeeper or baker I ll just have to move forward in spite of my ignorance and confusion stumbling toward some kind of acceptance even if it turns out to be a false kind I picked up a copy of this book a few Representation Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices Culture Media and Identities Series years ago on a whim at Goodwill It was an old library copy so old that the publisher was Farrar Straus and Cudahy Inc At the time I d never heard of Malamud before but the cover designed by Milton Glaser was striking with its colorful and clunky illustrations of flowersellow chalices orange keys green stars again with the Five fags a day yellow and chairs again with the green set against a pink background And for fifty cents Why not I said What s fifty cents now I asked then but maybe insurance against boredom in the future maybe And so it was And I like the story embedded in the very book itself the due date card with names of patrons past In pencil on the title page was the exact date the book officially entered the city collection Aug 6 1958 Checkouts were modest around two to three aear except for 1971 1974 1975 1977 1981 and 1982 Wicked Affairs p 2 years the book sat undisturbed sitting shelfabut don t listen to me just treatourself You ll see They re good I mean as Jhumpa Lahiri writes in her introduction this I read online found on the Internet Now that I have read them I cannot believe there was ever a time I had not 4350 Intensely readable with old fashioned roots Bernard Malamud is like the depressed Jewish grandfather I barely remember having 35 Stars %67100This is review is about The Magic Barrel not the other stories in the book Leo Finkle is a bright Jane of Gowlands young man studying to be a rabbi He is so focused on his studies and cannot spend any time on other things Someone suggest to him that he should get married via a matchmaker He chooses the matchmaker Pinye Salzman but he is a shady guy with mysteriesAt first the story seems to appear as a uest to find love but it uickly turns into its roots once findour faith and believe in God However in the story finding God and belief is through humans Through relationships between humans and love one can discover God s love As we have seen in the story it is not easy and it will not come without a hefty price Leo himself does not even realise that he is in need of love He wants to get married in order to find a bigger congregation After his interactions with Salzman he realizes just how lonely he is and how much he needs Stella s love The story is also about Salzman s unhappy life as he disowned his own daughter and works as a matchmaker When The Piper in the Wind you think about it it is ironic that faith can only be found through love from a woman something worldly Therefore I put this title To Believe or To Live the title of my essay to emphasize thatou cannot completely have both The Proposal you either choose belief and turn to God orou choose to live with love in this world In any case the story is than what it seems It is not only about love or faith The first seven Prey years A shoemaker wants a better life for his daughter And he doesn t think that reading books can give her that The mourners Ifou don t care about the people in Addicted to Womanhood Book One your life don t be surprised people don t care much aboutou The girl of my dreams A self loathing aspiring writer starts a correspondence with a mysterious lady writer Angel Levine God sends a black jewish angel to a despairing suffering man The Book of Job in Harlem NYC Behold the Key To behold or not to behold that s the uestion in this story of house hunting in Rome Italy Take Pity A man wants to help a poor embittered widow who suffered her whole life
But She Refuses Toshe refuses to his help for herself and for her children The man feels powerless and frustrated he didn t expect offering help to a friend could be this tough The prison A man s life can be his prison If Batman: Arkham Asylum - A Serious House on Serious Earth you can t helpourself Once is Never Enough you can t help others The lady of the lake Aoung man denies he s a Jew to win the love and approval of a beautiful Italian girl A summer s reading A lazy dropout plans to read books to educate himself and gains the respect from his family and neighbors The lazy dropout plans to read books to educate himself and gains the respect from his family and neighbors The A janitor doesn t pay his debt to the owners of a local store This has conseuences The last Mohican A man who travels to Italy to study the painter Giotto is being harassed by a poor jewish refugee The loan A man asks an old friend for a loan Lend Successful Employee Communications your money and loseour friend wife The magic barrel An aspiring rabbi asks the help of a marriage broker to find a wife A match made in heaven or in hell Superb beautifully crafted stories of marriage brokers lovelorn shoemakers angels and innocents abroad Nearest to my heart was A Summer s Reading in which a high school dropout gets no respect til one day he tells a neighbor that he will read 100 books in one summer Suddenly others are smiling and gazing kindly at him As the summer passes he reads nothing and his own self confidence begins to falter The story ends with this wonderful paragraph One evening in the S of old Europe in search of an artistic patrimony They tell of egg candlers shoemakers matchmakers rabbis in a voice blending vigorous urban realism Yiddish idiom artistic magic The Magic Barrel is a book about NY abo. ,
I count myself among the blessed for have visited new ork city i stayed in visited New York City I stayed in YMCA and shared a bunk with a petite taciturn Spanish girl whose cropped pale hair and brown skin put a spell on me that mixed itself into the city s spell of joy and sorrow the spell that made me want to sing and burst into tears because the soul I had never believed in knew it had come home So inside and behind and underneath Malamud s stories I feel my New York even when they travelAnd inside and behind and underneath all of these stories is also the Holocaust While this is occasionally called upon to invoke solidarity its spectre only brings pain In The Loan a baker is
Begged By Her Husband To Let Him Help A Friendby her husband to let him help a friend what is money for Forced by poverty to constantly check his spending she breaks down and repeats her own litany of suffering as a refugee it divides rather than fostering fellowship Malamud is an author who plays those shimmeringly vivid adverbs and images like aces at just the right moment and here he gives us burnt loaves blackened bricks charred corpses A waste without redemptionThe baker is not the only woman whose situation Malamud paints with compassion He draws attention to men who treat women as chattel who scapegoat them objectify them ignore their advice Though none of the tales have women protagonists almost all of them have women as agents resisting speaking controlling their own stories and often directing mens fatesI become less and less sure what magical realism is meant to capture Malamud s stories deal with pinched urban lives struggles to make ends or less meet or carefully planned respites disrupted by unexpected demands on hard earned limited savings they are grounded in the mundane material a banality that characters try to escape from into writing study art fantasised romance The escape never succeeds as planned but sometimes there is an intrusion of unreality an escape unlooked for a modest little god apologetically climbing down from the machinery bringing a cobbled together miracleIn my favourite story The Angel Levine the divine literally enters to intervene in the life of a man whose misfortunes are piled high on him Surprised by the presence of a black man in his flat he is further astonished to find that he is a Jew and incredulous that he is the angel he prayed for Unable to believe he dismisses him The protagonist must confront his own racism venturing twice into Harlem as instructed seeing Levine carousing drunk et beloved of god and holy When asked why god sent a black angel to him Levine only says it was my turn to go His miracle is finally effortless it is not he who must work for it but the doubter the reader and MalamudI interpret these stories as critiues of prejudice subtley inflected by complex histories of loss upheaval and privation meetings where commonalities and divisions are hidden or misunderstood The icing on this wholesome cake is the euphoric mystical spirituality that occasionally surges up from wounded jaded rational hearts and makes folk run wild in the street after the ghost of a dream This book made me long for the warm swaddle of classroom discussion Not that there s anything manifestly difficult about Bernard Malamud s writing he writes in clear straightforward prose about the most fundamental and universal ideas and emotions But he is the kind of writer who writes toward themes and whose seemingly simple stories are packed with layers of meaning and symbolism This is particularly evident in the endings of his stories which are often pointedly enigmatic strange abrupt puzzling and haunting They would be perfect for the classroom setting where teacher led discussions can spend big chunks of time teasing out meaning from the text volleying interpretations and possibilities In high school and college I got fairly good at this game of find the subtext literary whack a mole but in recent My Life with Princess Margaret years my skills have atrophied I can t swing that mallet uickly or accurately enough If reading fiction critically is a menage a trois of narrative aesthetics and thematics then I have or less mastered the first two and too often ignore the third On some level this is probably fine we have to be selective about what we process in the art we absorb or else we would go insane trying and failing to understand everything But I do miss those academic acts of collaborative detection especially because I didn t really appreciate them when I had access to them You don t know whatou got till it s gone and so forthIf I had read Malamud s National Book Award winning collection The Magic Barrel in such an atmosphere we probably would have talked about how several of these stories written in the 1950s contain grief stricken echoes of the Holocaust his Jewish characters victims of a kind of identity based PTSD We may also have discussed how Malamud is less interested in the reality of Jewish life than in the metaphorical potential of Jewish identity avatars of human suffering who struggle daily with the pain of living in an unjust world We might have theorized about the strange mix of empathy and cruelty with which Malamud treats his characters and has them treat each other We probably would have spitballed some thoughts about why a full three of these thirteen st. Malamud's 1st book of short stories The Magic Barrel was acknowledged classic from its 1959 publication They're set in NY Italy where Malamud's alter ego struggling NY Jewish Painter Arthur Fidelman roams amid the ruin. .