PILLAR OF SALT by Seymour Epstein


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A first novel introduces (beyond an earlier appearance in Short Story I) a writer of considerable sharpness, and it is in the telltale observations he has to bring on the particular background here, and the young man who- while in escaping from it- is never really free, that the book has its clearest definition. Sid Roth has left the world of his childhood, the stuffed cabbage and overstuffed furniture of his mother's home in the Bronx, to marry Gaby (a German born refugee) and share with her a more tasteful existence- books- music- flowers. But while they ""enjoy all the same things they see them differently""- so that what was once the stimulus of his attraction to her is now, after five years of marriage, a source of some bewilderment and ultimate pain. His parents, with their ""futile nudging"" try to make him leave his job in an advertising agency for his brother-in-law's business, more money and the family frame of reference. It is this decision which makes it only too clear that Gaby no longer loves him- that their worlds are too disparate- and that while the future holds little, there is also no point of return.... If Gaby, as she is to Sid, is perhaps the most elusive character here, there are some really remarkable set scenes and types from Gaby's mother's frayed, disorderly refugee household in Queens to Sid's mother in the Bronx, and her excesses of food, love and possession. And he has caught, with a devastating accuracy, not only the special inflections of these backgrounds but also the symptomatic attitudes of his characters- whether in compromise, default or defeat. It is an accomplished first novel, with a suggestion of autobiography, a sense of disenchantment, and an air of unmistakable truth. Where the popular possibilities do not seem strong- the market to try for might be that of Philip Roth.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1959
Publisher: Scribner