THE GOLDIN BOYS by Joseph Epstein


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 Editor of The American Scholar and a prolific essayist (A Line Out for a Walk, p. 314, etc.), Epstein debuts in fiction with this collection of nine stories, almost all of them about middle-aged Jewish men who grew up in the West Rogers Park area of Chicago. Many of these competent pieces serve the ideological agenda of the magazine in which they first appeared, the neo-conservative Commentary. ``Marshal Wexler's Brilliant Career,'' from the point of view of an Allan Bloomish Univ. of Chicago professor, tells of a student who becomes a prominent radical-chic publisher and writer. It's bush-league Tom Wolfe, with an added Zionist twist. As in several stories here, Epstein proves to be a poor man's Saul Bellow--his talking heads spout a cultural conservatism that really, underneath, suggest a defense of vulgar ambition. A number of profiles here concern class difference among Jews, and reveal a parvenu's interest in snobbery. ``The Count and the Princess'' chronicles the unlikely passion of a snobbish Polish ÇmigrÇ for a suburban divorcÇe, a ``Jewess'' not at all of his style. Similarly, ``Kaplan's Big Deal'' finds a wealthy, unencumbered Chicago businessman pursuing a divorced prof because he loves and admires her well-mannered son. In a number of stories, lower-class, hard- working Jews tell of those who've arrived. In the not very subtly named title piece, the remarkably athletic sons of a wealthy lawyer and his glamorous wife eventually meet their downfall, and in ``Paula, Dinky, and the Shark,'' an accountant's wife surveys the lives of her best friend's family, gangsters she's known since youth. Epstein's high esteem for the self-made businessman is further revealed in ``Low Anxiety,'' in which an office-furniture dealer links his daughter's abortion to his sense of cultural decline. ``No Pulitzer for Pinsker'' and ``Another Rare Visit with Noah Danzig'' attack novelists for their duplicitous manipulations of reality. Epstein writes with sledge-hammer subtlety about characters already familiar from Bellow, Roth, Malamud, and even Richard Stern. A book of minor ethnic interest.*justify no*

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-03022-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991


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