This is a sloppily assembled work. What Kaufman does best is convey the brittle camaraderie of the reservists; a story...

MATCHES

The experiences of an American Jew fighting as a reservist with the Israeli Defense Forces.

The matches of the title are soldiers, in IDF lingo. For his first novel, Kaufman (Jew Boy, memoir) has drawn on his own tours of duty with the IDF. His protagonist, Nathan Falk, is a twenty-something New York Jew with Israeli citizenship who has completed two years of regular service and now serves at least a month each year in the reserves, mostly in the Gaza Strip or on the Israeli/Egyptian border. He details a scary encounter with an ultra-orthodox settler who predicts an eventual war between the Jews; a house-to-house search in which Falk makes an important arrest; the destruction of a house owned by the parents of a terrorist; and the nighttime killing of desert infiltrators, thanks to the fine work of Bachshi, the IDF’s top Bedouin tracker. Kaufman’s passages on Bedouin culture are the most interesting, even if Bachshi sounds like the generic Voice of the Desert. Meanwhile, what is Falk up to the rest of the year? Hard to say. He lives alone in a Jerusalem apartment and balls Maya, wife of his best friend Dotan, off fighting in Lebanon (Falk never claimed to be nice). All three are part of a “bohemian cultural elite,” but we don’t know how Falk supports himself. At one point he has a crisis of conscience and decides “ I didn’t want to hurt (Arabs) anymore in order to survive;” he rushes to Jerusalem to be comforted by Maya, who then disappears from the story, along with the guilty conscience. The chronology is hard to follow, and by the final third, which consists of snapshots of reservists dealing with Palestinian civilians, “all guilty until proven innocent,” all novelistic coherence has evaporated.

This is a sloppily assembled work. What Kaufman does best is convey the brittle camaraderie of the reservists; a story collection or another memoir might have served his purposes better.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2005

ISBN: 0-316-10664-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Back Bay/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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