FUNNY ACCENT by Barbara Shulgasser-Parker


Email this review


Meandering jumble of clichés about a woman who prefers men of her father’s age.

Thirty-two-year-old Chicago ad-drone and former journalist Anna Schopenhauer, the whiny, self-centered daughter of Lithuanian Holocaust survivors, has just published her first short story in, of all places, The Atlantic Monthly. Called “Funny Accent,” the story—which either comprises the first chapter of the present novel or simply includes the same information—recounts Anna’s ten-year unconsummated affair with a family friend, Misha, also a survivor. Such a confession would—in the world of the novel—be scandalous enough, were it not for the fact that married Misha began romancing Anna when she was 13. Now, Anna must simultaneously come to grips with her past and figure out whether she has a future with either of the two older men in her life, both more stereotype than character: Gregory, the drunken goy playwright with whom Anna’s been involved for five years, and Sydney, a famous Jewish fiction-writer—Saul Bellow, seemingly—with a penchant for younger women (indeed, author of a novel entitled Younger Women). After much labored, pseudo-profound monologuing about love and sex (“ ‘I sometimes think my feelings for you are real the way they aren’t with anyone else’ ” ), Anna leaves Chicago for a visit with her parents (more monologuing), where she has the opportunity to take revenge on Misha for the harm he inflicted on her. It’s not quite clear why she seeks revenge, since she claims to have reciprocated Misha’s affections and to have been angry when he broke off their relationship. But then again, nothing is quite clear in this ragbag of a novel, which, albeit a small irritation, veers back and forth from first- to third-person seemingly without reason.

A first novel striving for witty sophistication in the vein of Woody Allen, but falling far short of its mark.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-27517-X
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2001