JUGGLING by Robert Lehrman


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It is 1960, in the predominantly rich and Jewish--newly rich Jewish--Five Towns of Long Island's South Shore. ""Soccer wasn't exactly the biggest sport on Long Island."" But soccer, which his less-than-rich father played in prewar Hamburg, is Howie Berger's chance to be a star. Shake-and-mix Philip Roth and Bernard Malamud, and you have some of the resonances in Lehrman's YA fiction debut. The structure is Old Testament: Just when his father turns against soccer (""You're going to be a doctor, not a bum""), Howie tries out for Maccabiah, the tough Jewish-immigrant team that plays in an amateur league with other immigrant teams, usually coming in second to the Greeks. To these Holocaust survivors, living out their days as janitors or mechanics, Howie is a rich kid and an interloper; even when he gets better, stops ""juggling"" and learns to play team-ball, they don't want to play with him: soccer is all they have left. To Howie, they are Jewish heroes: he spends his senior year, this 700-SAT student in a Camaro, gunning for a starting slot and yearning for an after-game invitation to Segal's bar. Howie's other, inescapable preoccupation is girls: getting over being shy with girls, though they seem to like him; feeling a girl's nipple stiffen, ""the way I had read about in A Stone for Danny Fisher."" Sandy Bessinger, comely and a classical pianist, makes it a little too easy--and also comes perilously close to the YA mold. (Supposedly, playing classical music is as oddball as playing soccer. At the same time, Howie encourages her to play pop--at which she's an instant success.) Then, Howie's euphoria is smashed by Sandy's unfaithfulness: can she really be in love with two guys at once? And when he finally gets his invitation to Segal's, it's too late. But, with his father's blessing, he will go to soccer-minded St. Louis, instead of classy Cornell. Fast-paced, tart, and richly-textured.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row