THE BACON FANCIER by Alan Isler

THE BACON FANCIER

Four Tales
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Four precise, elegant novellas, depicting, with wit and anger, the efforts of beleaguered Jews to come to an understanding with a hostile Gentile world. Isler (Kraven Images, 1996, etc.) has a remarkable gift for catching the small telling details of a character and for creating intelligent, distinctive voices. In ``The Monster,'' set in the Jewish ghetto in 16th-century Venice, an aged, unnamed moneylender recollects his disastrous attempt to recover the money lent an Italian nobleman, and his inadvertent part in the death of Mostrino, a hulking though harmless misshapen orphan jokingly identified, with disastrous consequences, as a golem--a legendary defender of the ghetto. We gradually realize that the narrator is in fact Shakespeare's ``Merchant of Venice,'' and that we are hearing, at last, the merchant's own view of events. In the title story, Cardoza, a maker of superb violins, an uneasy resident of England in the 18th century, describes his long affair with the Gentile girl he had sheltered from an abusive father. She becomes first his housekeeper, then his lover, and, over the course of several decades, his great solace. In the wake of her death Cardoza muses, believably and with a moving, muted passion, on his life. ``The Crossing'' follows the bitter education of young David Gladstone during a sea voyage to America in the company of such luminaries as Oscar Wilde. David discovers that his intelligence, his elegant precision of speech and manner, count for little in a world that sees him as a dangerous alien. ``The Affair,'' a funny, unsparing tale set in contemporary New York, describes the horrified reaction of an actor to a friend's production of ``Dreyfus: The Musical.'' By turns angry, deeply inventive, and unsettling, these novellas are a penetrating and original meditation on the vexed question of identity and a pointed reminder that Isler is swiftly becoming a writer of very considerable powers. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-670-87407-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1997




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