SCHOOM by Jonathan Wilson


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A thematically and geographically varied first collection from the author of a simultaneously published, and essentially similar, first novel (see above). In 12 capably fashioned tales set in England, the Middle East, and America, at times ranging from the days of WW I to the present, Wilson writes about ambitious males variously fixated on marital fulfillment or sexual conquest, uncommitted or unorthodox Jews wrestling with imperatives of solidarity imposed by their homeland and traditions, and well-meaning professionals edging toward middle age who don't yet know who they want to be when they grow up. The influences of Evelyn Waugh, Bernard Malamud, and Philip Roth (with bits and pieces of T. Coraghessan Boyle and Donald Barthelme added) are detectable in several wry renderings of cultural or romantic paranoia and hostility (""Shoes,"" ""Paris Nights,"" ""Gathering Rosie""). But Wilson hits his stride with a superbly detailed and plotted revelation of the price exacted from a Holocaust survivor (""From Shanghai""), and with two suspenseful and surprising portrayals of endangered families: ""Not Far from Jericho,"" in which American Jews in Israel encounter an assortment of menacing Palestinians; and ""Omaha,"" the affecting story of a fragmented family in wartime London threatened, enlightened, and eventually healed by their experience of the Blitz. The more overtly comic tales are generally less involving, though Wilson makes effective farcical use of the theme of failed communication in the tale of a professor of astronomy who becomes a casualty of the political-correctness wars (""Physically Correct""), that of an idealistic American Jewish family living in Israel who unwisely look after their Russian neighbors (""Migrants""), and in the clever title story, in which a young man who thinks he's on the make falls for his psychotherapist's daughter and finds he still has much to learn about the arts of exploitation and seduction. Intriguing work from a talented newcomer whose tales of alienation and exile ring familiar and true.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Penguin