PLAYING FROM MEMORY by David Milofsky

PLAYING FROM MEMORY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Milofsky's first novel is an earnest, sustained, but quite fiat account of how a marriage and a family endure the emotional and physical torments caused by multiple sclerosis. Ebullient musician Ben Seidler, product of a poor 1930s Brooklyn childhood, scholarshipped his way upwards, and for some time he has been a member of the prestigious string quartet based at the University of Wisconsin. He's married to artist Dory, and the couple has two boys, Michael and Charles. But in the late 1950s Ben becomes a victim of the degenerative disease M.S., and the family wrestles alone with the problems as Ben succumbs to the erratic and frightening march of symptoms--dimmed vision, unstable limbs, humiliating loss of bladder control, fragility, and the terrible final helplessness. The Seidlers balk, despair, quarrel and do their best: in spite of the anguish of losing control of his life, Ben tries composing and then teaching and finds pleasure in both; Dory, supporting the family by teaching in Milwaukee, is frantic with weariness, frustration, and a feeling of entrapment, but each remission and plateau brings its satisfactions; there are rows about Dory's attraction for another man; Ben twice moves out, only to be coaxed back; and the boys are alternately withdrawn and hostile. Yet, as Ben's death approaches, the family is brought closer, and the disease might even ""have allowed us to love each other more."" Milofsky has certainly managed a faithful recreation of the progress of the illness and the possible and probable reactions of a patient's family--but the characters, with the exception of Ben's feisty father Moshe (a retired tailor), seem merely bland and predictable. A rather pallid case history, then, despite the good intentions and the doggedly upbeat tone.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1980
ISBN: 0870815261
Publisher: Simon & Schuster