A collection of shorts about an aspiring artist and the community in which he grows up.
Sultz, a mixed-media artist, was born in Buffalo in 1930 to Jewish immigrant parents. Now almost 90, he's published his first book, a collection of clearly autobiographical vignettes about his life as a young man. Each story—most of which are half a page long; only one is longer than two pages—is narrated by a young aspiring artist, known to his friends as Sultz. Those friends, also Jewish, also the children of immigrants, make up much of the book’s focus. There’s Arnie, who’s always trying to score a deal—selling Christmas trees or supposedly semiprecious stones—and Barney and Moe, virtually indistinguishable, both of whom seem intended for comic effect. One drives a delivery truck filled with fresh-baked pies; the other helps run a gas station/car repair shop. World War II has recently ended, and there are a few references to various relatives who survived the war before fleeing to Buffalo. But for the most part, the book is concerned with more banal things: small talk between Sultz and his buddies, their latest moneymaking schemes, and other everyday details. The book is draped in nostalgia, and while there’s humor, even charm, in many of the vignettes, their very brevity allows them to avoid any kind of meaningful depth. This is the work of an aging artist looking back fondly on his youth. Unfortunately, he doesn’t dig beyond that bland fondness.
Frequently humorous, even charming, the book stumbles over its own reverential air of nostalgia.