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by Leonard Michaels

Pub Date: July 7th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-374-14880-5
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A collection of articles by celebrated author Michaels (The Collected Stories of Leonard Michaels, 2007, etc.).

Divided into two distinct halves, the volume serves as an assemblage of the author’s nonfiction work, much of which was published late in his life. “Critical Essays” includes several free-flowing, loosely constructed entries on a variety of big, important topics like love, death, art and literature. Despite their seemingly heroic ambitions, most of these pieces are brief and playful in their approach—this unassuming manner makes for entertaining reading. In “Some Examples of Murder,” Michaels selects great moments from the Bible, Nabokov, Bellow and Kafka and props them up next to each other in an effort to unearth connections and underlying truths. The second section, “Autobiographical Essays,” is less successful, mainly because it reflects a more conventional form and style. While many of these nostalgic stories of youth and adulthood are well-written, few are revelatory. At a mere five pages, “The Abandoned House” stirringly captures the inherent fear and recklessness of prolonged adolescence, while “Kishkas” provides a droll assessment ozf the film adaptation of The Men’s Club. The best essay is “The Zipper,” which centers on Rita Hayworth’s role in Gilda and the emotional reaction it caused in the teenaged Michaels. The story successfully synergizes the book’s two halves, ably combining the critical eye of the first section with the self-reflection of the second.

Contains weaknesses, but largely enjoyable and intellectually stimulating.