RAG TRADE by Lewis Orde


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In 40 years, no one has topped I Can Get It For You Wholesale as an evocation of the Jewish family-run garment biz, and the list of also-rans now includes this ploddingly sensationalized version by first-novelist Orde, notwithstanding the updated trappings of its second haft. It's the first half, in fact, that at least moves along with a modest, pleasant stolidity through the Thirties--as ambitious Jonathan Gellenbaum persuades his tailor father to join him in switching from family shop to menswear factory. Union mobster troubles (the union is 100% evil), shyster troubles, a nice Jewish bride (""this little slip of femininity"")--the usual Depression challenges for nondescript Jonathan. But the recurring Gellenbaum conflict is the move from old-world stitching to high-fashion styling; to papa's dismay, Jonathan returns from The War ready to change his name to ""Chesterton"" and develop a fancy-shmancy chain. Zap--it's the Seventies, and Jonathan has 38 stores, a boutique spin-off, a Great Neck manse, an italian designer connection, a heart condition, and grown twin sons: good-boy Gerald and bad-boy Simon. Here Orde slips into desperate melodramatics. Gerald's wife figures in a totally extraneous rape/self-defense killing with a tennis club pro, while Simon's sexy non-Jewish wife Lady-Macbeths him into plotting against Jonathan via the blackmail of a homosexual Chesterton executive. Slurpy stuff, which pretty well cancels out the minor appeal of the insider details on current rag trade practices: shoplifting statistics, boutique marketing principles, running a ""spiff."" In other words. . . a shmatte--to be tried on only if somebody can get it for you wholesale.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1978
Publisher: St. Martin's