With shrewdness, wit, and lyricism, Lempel gives voice to the women, the aging, the ill, and others who, from the margins of...

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OEDIPUS IN BROOKLYN AND OTHER STORIES

A collection of stories by an accomplished Yiddish writer now appears in English for the first time.

These stories are a remarkable achievement. This volume combines the two books of stories Lempel (1907-1999) published during her lifetime; much of her work appeared in Yiddish newspapers and remains uncollected. Lempel described female desire, abortion, and incest, among other things, at a time when very few other writers were willing to take on such subjects. She did so with modernist acuity, making use of stream-of-consciousness narrative techniques, with a poet’s eye for sharp, unsettling images. In “The Death of My Aunt,” the narrator, after learning of her aunt’s death, hangs up the telephone and looks out the window. It’s nighttime, and she sees “that the bare branches of my tree were filled with keening women wrapped in black shawls.” Her grief becomes literal, external. In “Images on a Blank Canvas,” which describes another death, she writes: “Inside my head, black crows caw loudly around the dead body,” an image that, as in many of her stories, blurs the line between the real and the unreal. That same narrator distinguishes herself from those people who “exchange information they have observed with their own eyes. I,” she tells us, “am trying to see the invisible. I don’t trust the eye that relies on facts.” This is as precise a statement of poetics as any other and speaks well to Lempel’s individual style. Unfortunately, Lempel also has a propensity for the sentimental, and many of the stories that begin with wry honesty are resolved with what feels like forced closure. She’s prone to overwriting, to grandiloquent passages more baroque than sonorous. Still, the pleasures of Lempel’s insight outweigh these stylistic proclivities.

With shrewdness, wit, and lyricism, Lempel gives voice to the women, the aging, the ill, and others who, from the margins of modern society, have had trouble making themselves heard.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 078-1-942134-25-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Mandel Vilar Press/Dryad Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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