LOVE, ACTION, LAUGHTER And Other Sad Tales by Budd Schulberg


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Schulberg's first collection of short stories in three decades is a show of 16 tales about Hollywood, Mexico, the New York waterfront, and similar familiar Schulberg locales. Of the 16, four or five stand up and deliver, while the others have long moments of becoming meaningful without ever really following through. Schulberg adapts his style to the content in each story, but as his old, disenchanted buddy F. Scott Fitzgerald might have told him, one style is enough if tailored to the writer's voice. Schulberg's voice is much too often a suit off the racks, lumpy and dull. Among the best are his Mexican stories, in which he takes on a mock Spanish tone that is quite lively--and which suggests that his other stories will sound better in translation. His strongest is ""Counterintelligence in Mexico City,"" a bitter comedy in which some illiterate Indians come down from the hills to sell melons in the big city, are arrested as Arab terrorists by a drunken Mexican policeman, and beaten to a pulp in jail in an effort to extort confessions from them. When finally released for lack of evidence, the Indians tell their fellow tribesmen that Mexico City has declared war on them. The best Hollywood story is ""The Second Father,"" in which little Chris, the son of a Hollywood studio head (like Schulberg himself), falls under the spell of the new family chauffeur, an ex-boxer, who befriends the boy because he plans to kidnap him. ""The Docks of New York"" seems a sketch for Schulberg's classic script for On the Waterfront, while ""The Barracudas"" is a takeoff on ""The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber,"" and ""The Funny Part Is. . ."" is an okay replay of Ring Lardner's ""Champion."" Schulberg punches best in long forms where he worries his subjects bearishly, and where his page carries more weight because more is riding on it. The short story leaves his glass jaw wide open.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 1989
Publisher: Random House