GOD AND HARVEY GROSBECK by Gilbert Millstein
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Ten years after The Late Harvey Grosbeck, Harvey is back--and even more engaging: ""a crank, a blown-in-the-bottle crank, a bag lady among men, dragging around with him in the shopping bag of his mind the messy accumulations of a life spent missing the point while poking around in dustbins. . . . A Jewish redneck. A jock of the mind. A New York peckerwood."" Now, you see, Grosbeck, editor on the city desk for ""The Newspaper"" (read the Times), has been felled by a heart attack--and has returned to the world crankier and less compromising than ever. The higher-ups at the Newspaper, thinking that Harvey might have by peril grown mellower, kick him upstairs to be an editorial writer with emphasis on city-nostalgia. (Millstein is withering about the paper: ""It had withstood everything--the assaults of every kind of degradation in the streets, the government of gangsters and respectable men, and its own grave, spectacular foolishnesses, its doubtful alliances, its forthright misunderstandings of almost everything to which it devoted its elephantine attention. It also survived its stumblings into reality and the truths to which it paid such mincing tributes."") But this coincides with a real-estate developer's plan to construct a behemoth midtown building that will use as a facade two low-rise historic mansions already on site; the Newspaper is being courted for its editorial blessing, with New York pedant and purist Grosbeck an unyielding opponent. So the plot will turn Grosbeck, rather inevitably, in the direction of the bed of the developer's P.R. woman, Alice Forsythe--which allows Millstein some funny/blowsy sex writing as well as a full-throttle hurdy-gurdying of Grosbeck's weaknesses of the flesh. And ultimately Grosbeck will lead a conspiracy to sabotage the Newspaper's cynical, corporate editorial support of the Mansions project. A thin plot with roman à clef tinges? Perhaps. And, except for a few undeveloped, Bruce Jay Friedman-ish doodlings (Grosbeck discovers that God is a woman, and Puerto Rican), the theological tilt of the title is left unfulfilled. But, as before, Millstein puts all his energy and talent into the Grosbeck persona: fallible, stiffnecked, a sprightly physical ruin, a bit unhinged--a comic hero of the Don Quixote school. So fans of character-comedy will find this a highly diverting celebration of N.Y.-style irascibility, while those particularly interested in Times-wise gossip will want to do a little browsing.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday