COMING CLOSE by B. H. Friedman


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Four autobiographical story-essays, more successful when tight-focused than when allowed to roam long and wide. In ""Drinking Smoke,"" Friedman recounts how he began to smoke, what, where, and when he continued smoking (though now an ex-smoker, he still loves it), his tribulations in stopping; and, while not in the class of Svevo's The Confessions of Zeno, the essay has an engaging sensuousness, dilemma made delicious. ""Moving in Place"" presents Friedman moving from an East Side Manhattan townhouse he owns to a twelve-room co-op apartment a few blocks away: the re-decorating of the new apartment becomes an obsession for his wife (albeit a reluctant one); the particularity of the moving trauma--the illusion (?) that we are different (or the same?) somewhere else--is especially pleasing. But in ""Watching Father Die"" and ""Choosing a Name,"" Friedman (Museum, The Polygamist) far less effectively glides through autobiographical snippets: his shoe-manufacturer father; his mother's real-estate-rich family; college, the Navy, college again; marrying a distant cousin; writing ambitions; going in with his uncle to the real estate business (where he is extremely prosperous); quitting to write full-time; reconsidering And though a series of unsynchronized, contradictory memoirs is an interesting and attractive literary idea, it's barely explored here--with virtually no characterization (except for the fact that Friedman's father always speaks in capital letters) and minimal involvement. Still, those smoking and moving vignettes are appealing--especially for readers who share the well-to-do Manhattan backgrounds.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1982
Publisher: Fiction Collective--dist. by Flatiron (175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010)