LEAD PENCIL: Stories and Sketches by Berl Botwinik

LEAD PENCIL: Stories and Sketches

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Botwinik (1886-1948) was a prolific Yiddish author of essays, plays, novels, stories; in his capacity as writer for the Jewish Daily Forward, be had a stint (under the pseudonym ""Lead Pencil"") as the sachem for the ""Bintel Brief"" and its advice-seeking letter writers. So it does not seem surprising that many of the sketches here, judiciously edited by translator Klukoff, involve advice--given, asked for, often then ignored. Also, Botwinik's interest was taken by the Bundist (Socialist) politics of Yiddish Eastern Europe. But most of these tales deal with the sharpening status that came to immigrants in America: in ""Esperanto,"" an optometrist allows a hectically proud immigrant woman to save face when confronted by an eye-chart that she doesn't know how to begin to read; in ""A Shoemaker for a Husband,"" a widow finds herself in a dilemma--considering remarriage to a man whom her grown and successful children will find inferior. And, like most popular Yiddish writers of the time, Botwinik is never made nervous by melodrama or sentiment--an open-hearted quality that gives distinction to the one truly impressive story here: ""Jake"" is the old sick retriever dog of a Yiddish theatrical producer, upstaged by a new poodle in the household; and Botwinik lets no irony touch this tale, allowing it to be all warmth. Narrowly, sociologically interesting sketches for the most part, then--but Botwinik's tender, big-hearted approach makes this a quietly engaging collection for anyone drawn to the Yiddish-fiction tradition.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press