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Magic Worlds of Bernard Malamud, The

Evelyn Avery

Publication Year: 2001

Offers personal recollections of and critical perspectives on this major American author. In the best literary tradition, Bernard Malamud uses the particular experiences of his subjects—Eastern European Jews, immigrant Americans, and urban African Americans—to express the universal. This book offers an exploration of this beloved American writer’s fiction, which has won two National Book Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. In addition to the literary studies, personal recollections by son Paul Malamud, memoirs and portraits by good friends, colleagues, and fellow writers such as Cynthia Ozick, Daniel Stern, and Nicolas Delbanco illuminate Malamud’s life and work. The contributors reveal that in an age that deconstructs, Malamud’s voice does not. Instead, it speaks clearly and imaginatively with the weight of ancient traditions and the understanding of modern conditions.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

What should I call it? I pondered, listing and rejecting titles such as Bernard Malamud's Fiction (too prosaic), Bernard Malamud and the Critics (too harsh), or The Many Worlds of Bernard Malamud (a possibility but too vague). Titling a manuscript seems more difficult than naming children, though in both cases the effects are generally indelible. As usual, author Bernard...

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pp. xi

In an age that prizes diversity, Bernard Malamud's voice is uniquely universal. Though he combines the tones of Eastern European Jews, struggling immigrant Americans, bumbling academics, ghetto blacks, and even talking animals, the author has an extensive audience that cuts across ethnic, regional, and national boundaries. In the best literary...


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pp. 1

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Chapter 1. Malamud in Corvallis: Memories of Dad

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pp. 3-11

Around 1950 Dad wrote many letters to colleges across the country, seeking full-time work as a teacher. When he received an offer from Oregon State College in Corvallis, my father, mother, and I (in my twos) took the transcontinental train west. Then, as now, Corvallis was in the heart of the Willamette Valley, about a two-hour drive from the Pacific Ocean. The...

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Chapter 2. Recollecting Bernie Colleagues at Oregon State, Interviewed by Paul Malamud

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pp. 13-23

By the end of the first month that we were here, we were invited to the Malamud house, which was customary, because they (Ann and Bern) were always interested in welcoming newcomers and in finding out about them. So I think unquestionably what brought us together—that is particularly Bern and myself—was that we were both Easterners. He was from...

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Chapter 3. Remembrances: Bernard Malamud

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pp. 25-27

In 1976 I answered the telephone and heard privately an instantly recognizable public voice. I knew this voice with the intimacy of passionate reverence. I had listened to it in the auditorium of the 92nd Street Y reading an as yet unpublished tale called "The Silver Crown," a story so electrifying that I wished with all my heart that it was mine. Since it was not...

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Chapter 4. Malamud: Seen and Unseen

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pp. 29-33

There was something of a chasm between experiencing Bern Malamud as a friend and as a writer. I have rarely seen a clearer proof of Proust's remark, "The person you see is not the person who writes the books." And yet, and yet ... I remember thinking, after we met, after we became close, that he was mysterious as a human being as well as an artist. There was...

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Chapter 5. On The Magic Barrel

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pp. 35-42

I first met Bernard Malamud in 1966. I was an ambitious boy of twenty-three, with a debut novel about to appear and the self-confident conviction that I could and should replace him while he took a leave of absence from his teaching job. He was leaving Bennington College for what turned out to be a two-year stint in Cambridge, Massachusetts; I drifted into town and was...

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Chapter 6. The Rhythms of Friendship in the Life of Art: The Correspondence of Bernard Malamud and Rosemarie Beck

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pp. 43-56

Friendship is not a word that Bernard Malamud took lightly. In particular, epistolary friendship with other writers and artists offered him momentary release from the uncompromising discipline he demanded of himself on behalf of his fiction. For Malamud, such friendship, especially early in his career, became a form of communion with those who shared his...


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pp. 57

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Chapter 7. America and the History of the Jews in Bernard Malamud's "The Last Mohican"

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pp. 59-68

"The Last Mohican" is part of Bernard Malamud's well-known short story collection, The Magic Barrel1 that forms an extended examination of the primary values of human life and love in a world that Malamud views as becoming increasingly impersonalized and commercialized. "The Last Mohican" follows the pattern of these stories of broken lives imperfectly...

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Chapter 8. Zen Buddhism and The Assistant: A Grocery as a Training Monastery

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pp. 69-86

In writings about the works of Bernard Malamud, the traditions that have been seen as most relevant to understanding his themes and the development of his characters have been Western ones: Judaism, Christianity, liberal humanism. Clearly, these are very important, but they are not the only traditions that throw light upon his fiction. He stated in an interview: "I...

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Chapter 9. Malamud's New [Academic] Life—and Ours

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pp. 87-100

Although I first encountered Malamud's A New Life in a college lit. course, it wasn't until I schlepped myself across the country to accept a graduate assistantship at the University of Washington that the novel began to read me rather than the other way around. Not only was I heading West for my own version of the new academic life, but there were other intimations...

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Chapter 10. The Lives of Dubin

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pp. 101-110

It's an old American ethical dilemma: Are you as good as you could be? And if you could be, would that be good? For Bernard Malamud the impulse toward goodness in his characters provides a central impetus in many of his novels, but always with big complications. William Dubin, the central intelligence of Dubin's Lives, has several predecessors—Frank...

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Chapter 11. Gorilla in the Myth: Malamud's God's Grace

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pp. 111-119

In its references to classical sources and its use of traditional rituals, God's Grace (1982) is Bernard Malamud's most Jewish novel. And, in its vision of a thermonuclear destruction and Second Flood eradicating not only the human race (with one temporary exception) but almost the totality of creation, God's Grace is Malamud's most pessimistic. Yet Malamud himself...


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pp. 121

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Chapter 12. Reflections on Transmogrified Yiddish Archetypes in Fiction by Bernard Malamud

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pp. 123-138

Folkloric characters of Yiddish literature have been successfully transmogrified by modern American writers who have transplanted treasures of the traditional canon to the American literary landscape.1 Among the most successful of these contemporary translators is Bernard Malamud who has created a body of fiction incorporating stock figures from Yiddish...

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Chapter 13. Not True Although Truth: The Holocaust's Legacy in Three Malamud Stories: "The German Refugee," "Man in the Drawer," and "The Lady of the Lake"

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pp. 139-152

In "Malamud's Jews and the Holocaust Experience" Lawrence Langer roundly criticizes Malamud for infusing his view of humanity into his novels and stories that evoke the Holocaust, either literally or figuratively. Jews in death camps, Langer argues, were not given "the gift of suffering" enjoyed by Morris Bober and Yakov Bok (145), and so are not realistic...

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Chapter 14. Bernard and Juliet: Romances and Desire in Malamud's High Art

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pp. 153-160

In art, as in life, romance sometimes strikes when you least expect it. In Bernard Malamud's short fiction, it's also quite an anomalous occurence and a sometimes almost comical emotion in contrast to the pathos of his other motifs. It is expressed by a number of images so traditional—one of the most apparent being the attraction that moves from the image straight...

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Chapter 15. Bernard Malamud and Cynthia Ozick: Kindred Neshamas

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pp. 161-166

Separated by gender, religious practice, and life style, Bernard Malamud and Cynthia Ozick would appear to share little but their accidents of birth and choice of craft as twentieth-century Jewish American authors. Indeed, they even define themselves differently since Malamud describes himself as a "writer who happens to be Jewish," while Ozick sees herself as a...

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Chapter 16. Bernard Malamud and His Universal Menschen

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pp. 167-173

Throughout his long creative career, from The Natural (1952) to The People (published posthumously), Malamud asked: How shall a man create for himself a new life? Through loneliness and suffering, through balancing the demands of passion and commitment, his characters respond, demonstrating what critics call "moral obligation." Characters as diverse as a...

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Chapter 17. A Kind of Vigilance: Tropic Suspension in Bernard Malamud's Fiction

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pp. 175-186

At a crucial juncture in the short story "The Letter," the moment of reckoning we await in all of Malamud's fiction, a character stands alone at a crossroads, in this case, at a side entrance of a hospital whose psychiatric ward he inhabits. He stands at the gate, "in loose gray institutional clothes and canvas slippers,"1 with a letter in his hand, a letter without words...


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pp. 187

Eileen H. Watts

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pp. 189-208

Contributors List

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pp. 209-211


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pp. 213-219

E-ISBN-13: 9780791490129
E-ISBN-10: 0791490122
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791450659
Print-ISBN-10: 0791450651

Page Count: 255
Publication Year: 2001

Series Title: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture