Email this review


The first half of our book is an essay, the second half a play; the purpose of the essay apparently, is to introduce the play, but the purpose of the play is what- to fill out the book? The author, Mark (Something About a Soldier) Harris, is a sort of existentialist gag man, a fast-talking, fast-writing, high-stepping exemplar of the American experience, from baseball on up. His talents, reasonably large, resemble those of his betters, Bellow and Malumud, or his peer, Burt Blechman. Either way, however, with Friedman and Son he's not at his best. The play, a whizbang, wisecracking entry into avant grade vaudeville has as its theme loss of identity and as its hero a genius with 2 typewriters, a former Harvard classmate of JFK, a successful, assimilated Jew who calls himself Ferguson. His father, Friedman, is an immigrant salesman; they have not spoken in 5 years; both, you see, ""are individualistic as hell."" Thus enters enter Schimmel, a ""togetherness"" pimp off the Grossinger circuit; he arranges the reunion. In between a Mayor, a Judge, a General, Madison Avenue, Ivory Soap and the Miami Beach joke (My son, the doctor becomes My son, the writer) all serve as the pins holding up the dramatic hairpiece. Best lines; on baseball (9 goyim with a glove chasing 9 goyim with a bat. Who needs it?) on prejudice (And yet, without the prejudice, who is a Jew? Rejoice in the prejudice), and on ourselves, Ferguson warning ""us all of the terrible danger of turning America into one big testimonial dinner. In short, amidst the bald spots, a few brilliantined curlicues.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1963
Publisher: Macmillan