NOW NEWMAN WAS OLD by Chaim Bermant


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Bermant's aging English-Jewish protagonists--shrewd, caustic wayfarers amid familial tempests--are always immensely likable; but here the career of Newman, reluctant retiree at 66 from the business of which he was so proud, takes a tragic turn. Jostled into inactivity and a new house by wife Doris, Newman ponders autumnal routines and inexplicably finds himself in the jolly midst of affairs with neighborhood women. But rosy flings begin to sere and yellow as he is thrust into the tangled lives of two of his three children after Doris' death from cancer. (Did he love her? Well, he misses her.) Beautiful daughter Gypsy, a lawyer, is married to wealthy, distinguished Nathan who, she claims, is a homosexual; Nigel is a grade-B actor living in Hollywood with a scattered twit and two dreadful offspring. And hovering about is Newman's former exec secretary Iris, to whom Doris expressed a dying wish that she marry Newman. Unpleasant revelations about Gypsy and Nigel cause Newman to mull over happiness built around children: ""where had it got us, or for that matter, where had it got them?"" And ultimately he buckles under, deliberately kills a lover of Gypsy's, and is to end his days in a home for the criminally insane--""retirement with a vengeance. . . it took them nearly seventy years before they caught up with me."" It's a long stretch from Newman-the-pater-familias to Newman-the-murderer, and Bermant doesn't bring off all the connections. But he has created several entertaining originals, and he uncovers a convincing thread of that watershed anxiety about life's final days--which can hold such miserable surprises.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1978
Publisher: St. Martin's