BLUE NUMBERS by Bruce Goldsmith


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A black sheep of a Jewish family pretends to be a concentration-camp survivor--in a second comic novel from Goldsmith (Strange Ailments; Uncertain Cures, 1986) that sputters along, being sometimes very funny but too often merely frivolous. Sandy Klein has failed as a husband and as a publisher of an alternative weekly newspaper (grim accounts of cancer and the Holocaust); now, he works for his father Nat and his two brothers at the family vitamin-plant, but longs to prove himself worthy of being Jewish. One morning, he wakes with concentration-camp numbers tattooed on his arm and soon meets Paula, his love interest and a lawyer. And so, between bouts of gratuitous sex (graphically, and unimaginatively, rendered) and instances of paranoia, Sandy decides to become "Uri," a camp survivor. The plot quickly turns farcical: "Uri" achieves fame as an articulate witness to Nazi atrocities, and Sandy, getting in ever deeper, concocts a plan (with Paula's help) to kidnap a man he suspects of being a war criminal. In a preposterous climax, father Nat invites "Uri" to receive a Humanitarian of the Year award. At the ceremony, Sandy brings the captured German to the stage and reveals "Uri" 's true identity--and, instead of receiving a hero's welcome, he's forced to flee, hostage in tow, with the LAPD and its SWAT squad at his heels. Though he frees the German, the SWAT team fires thousands of rounds into his bungalow, and that's the end of Sandy--and of the book. Despite some truly biting satire, this one gets reedy; Goldsmith is a writer to watch, but here there's not enough blue pencil and far too much sitcom.

ISBN: 916515-53-2
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