SLEEPLESS NIGHTS by Andrew Bergman


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From successful screenwriter Bergman (Blazing Saddles, etc.) comes a novel about double incest in Queens during the 1950s. Skipping back and forth in time, the text chronicles the life of Robert Weisglass, who is not only seduced by the beautiful older sister with whom he shares a bedroom, but is also pressured into having sex with his mother. His father, a kindly if remote figure, seems permanently out to lunch, totally unaware of the ravening sexual appetites the women in his family possess. Understandably, Robbie develops into a fretful and anxious young man whose only satisfying romantic liaison is with a girl who dies tragically young of leukemia. Intercut with the vividly written childhood scenes are episodes showing the adult Robert in the office of his psychiatrist, confronting his mother and sister with their transgressions, and dealing with the eventual death of his parents. Recovery of a sort takes place with his marriage to an incest survivor with whom he has a child. While the writing is of a high caliber and the scenes from childhood are palpable and gripping, the novel fails to meet its own emotional demands. The juxtaposition of youthful episodes with those from the adult road to recovery speeds the novel along too quickly; escape and redemption are shown as possibilities before we've felt the choking weight of Robbie's claustrophobic, airless childhood. Also, the young woman who becomes his wife is a two dimensional embodiment of some self-help fantasy. The characterizations, indeed the whole novel, seem to be written in shorthand, as though they were awaiting dazzling camera images to flesh them out. Bergman shows some real gifts as a writer, but he needs to slow down and let the power of the world he is capable of creating truly overtake the reader.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 1994
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Donald Fine