Weidman's schooled storytelling on Fourth Street East (1971) brings back Benjamin again, this time in two phases --...

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LAST RESPECTS

Weidman's schooled storytelling on Fourth Street East (1971) brings back Benjamin again, this time in two phases -- 50-year-old contemporary Benjamin who stumbles into a bizarre search for his just-deceased mother's body in Manhattan's grimmer institutions; and Boy Scout Benny of the Prohibition era, who had even more trouble catching up with Mother in her brief but ferocious bootlegging career. Inadvertent destroyer of his scout pack's chances for excellence in flag signaling, apprentice in Mr. Lebenbaum's candy store where he kept appointment books for three hard-working playgirls upstairs, hapless member of Rabbi Goldfarb's cheder where the Rabbi swung a chair rung like a machete, Benny, like his father, was a serf on Mother's home fief. A blonde beauty with the will of a Fury, Mother allots Benny a wildly intricate assignment on a bootlegging operation in which she is allied with a softly accented Southern dockside supplier. Benny is to transport eighteen bottles of whiskey to a wedding, and in Marx Brothers fashion he touches all bases -- crashing along, lying brilliantly, escaping the Rabbi (who cops a bottle), setting fire to Lebenbaums, and finally hurtling into the wedding only to witness the shooting of the groom. And Mother's flight is wistfully tracked by Benny the Scout via flashlight Morse code. But she does return -- to wreck the marriage and a man. The middle-aged Benjamin recovers his mother's body and then, abruptly, that one moment in the past when he felt her love. Within the ghetto idiom of ""storm cellar"" feints and attacks, the last respects are paid with comic tumult and an acute compassion. Weidman at the apex.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1971

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1971