THE APATHETIC BOOKIE JOINT by Daniel Fuchs
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THE APATHETIC BOOKIE JOINT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

That Fuchs once managed to juice the immigrant Jewish novel of the Thirties for so much unexpectedly irrepressible life (Summer in Williamsburg, etc.) is one of the lesser-appreciated glories of our literature. Even less noticed was the something sober, hard, and candidly breathtaking that happened to his style 40 years later and produced the amazing Hollywood novel West of the Rockies (1971). The short fiction and personal essays here ratify these comparatively secret strengths. In the Brooklyn of Fuchs' Forties' fiction, people ""bunk into"" each other; in stores, barber shops, bars, bookie joints, only the smallest shove is required to get a situation rolling that in no time at all is careening out of control. Characters often use speech they consciously know is meant to impress or forestall: ""I want to go on record as being grateful to you for clarifying up the atmosphere,"" a Brooklyn shipping clerk miffedly tells his girl. And not only did this recklessness of linguistic character stay with Fuchs after he went to Hollywood to write for the movies--it grew: the fantasy-selves that people construct out there in L.A. are ten times grander than those of the Flatbushites. In a never-before-published novella, ""Triplicate,"" a down-on-his-luck, universally despised New York producer crashes a Hollywood party and tells scandalous stories to a crowd of guests, who are suitably disgusted. The producer then has to settle for the attention of the writer-protagonist, whom he tells: ""The whole point about being at the races is that when you're there you're not in some dreary hospital, waiting to see how the surgery came out. Intelligent people understand that."" Fuchs' mostly desperate characters, each and all, understand this--the dire alternative to their excited, hapless strategies. In all of these pieces, major as well as minor (the two masterpieces here are ""Man in the Middle of the Ocean"" and ""Twilight in Southern California""), that awareness shines like a dimmed sun: the effect is one of the most extraordinary in American writing. Brooklyn-style or Hollywood-style, Fuchs is superb--and this is a wonderful book.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Methuen