THE COMPLETE STORIES by Bernard Malamud
Kirkus Star

THE COMPLETE STORIES

KIRKUS REVIEW

A generous, invaluable volume that collects the 53 stories published during his 40-year career by a master of both realism and surrealism, a writer who begins to look more and more like one of the very best modern American writers. This differs from the earlier Stories (1983) in including the total contents of such acclaimed (and award-winning) collections as The Magic Barrel, as well as several early efforts (of which the forgotten "Armistice" is especially impressive), and a scattering of others retrieved from the magazines in which they originally appeared. An unmistakable voice, terse and ironical while simultaneously colloquial urban-Jewish, sounds throughout these rich tales, which manage to be remarkably varied despite their emphasis on Malamud's trademark themes of victimization and loneliness. The exceptions are several sardonically amusing portrayals of the scapegrace flawed artist Arthur Fidelman, and the late, complex "fictive biographies" of such subjects as Virginia Woolf and Alma Mahler ("In Kew Gardens" and "Alma Redeemed," respectively) that seem to have developed out of his 1979 novel, Dublin's Lives. But the essential Malamud is found in his moving studies of the claims of charity and the consequences of acknowledging or denying one's kinship with others ("Idiots First," "Take Pity"), and more specifically of Jews unable to escape their heritage and its responsibilities ("Man in the Drawer," "The Last Mohican"). On another level, the imperatives of belonging are ingeniously rendered in such celebrated fantasies as "Angel Levine," "The Jewbird," and "The Silver Crown," an overlooked story that is one of Malamud's greatest. Even readers who think they know his work well may be surprised at how powerfully some of the lesser known stories continue to resonate ("The Bill" and the moving "Rembrandt's Hat" are exemplary). A landmark book that belongs on the same shelf with the collected stories of John Cheerer and Issac Bashevis Singer. "Believe me, there are Jews everywhere," intones a representative Malamud character. Believe me, we believe him.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-374-12639-9
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1997




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