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Book Reviews 173 seraphette appears late, and to no significant purpose, and makes an abrupt exit, as if she discovered she really belonged in a story by Steve Stern. The social observation remains superficial and repetitive, and not nearly as pungent or keen as works by Roth, Richler, Markfield, Heller, and other satirists. The heart of the novel, the adulterous affair which weighs so heavily on the minds of all the protagonists, failed to engage my imaginative sympathy as a recklessly destructive but deeply fulfilling liaison. The cause of that failure, as I see it, is Elman's decision to degrade Izzy Berliner as the story unfolds. He is first presented as a glamorous veteran of the Spanish Civil War, a committed exponent of socialist principles, a worldly and attractive rebel, a sophisticated and passionate lover ofwomen, Sam's agonized but loyal friend, and Peter's doting "uncle." As the book moves along negative traits emerge and eventually swamp his character-his political commitments are just talk, and we learn that he has betrayed former comrades, he fails to repay loans, and he sleeps with any man's wife he can seduce. like Milton transforming Satan from the defial)dy glorious titan of Hell into a snake hissing at Eve's ear, Elman finally makes Izzy shrivel into a pathetic and lonely old man. So he appears at the end of the book even in the view of the boy who once idolized him for his golden voice and tender solicitude while hating him for betraying and humiliating the decent if dull Sam. Peter's ambivalent response might have been explored more fully instead of being tangled up in the underdeveloped African and angelic themes; and if the novel were not stacked against Berliner, the reader might even have empathized with the boy's admiration and resentment. Michael Shapiro Department of English University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana Conversations with Bernard Malamud, edited by lawrence lasher. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1991. 156 pp. $32.50. When reviewing this collection of the thirty or so interviews Bernard Malamud granted in his lifetime, the reviewer must directly confront the fact that Malamud didn't like to talk about himself or his fiction with anyone on the public stage. In the interviews the result of this reticence, if one is expecting the out-of-control effusiveness and self-preoccupation 174 SHOFAR Winter 1993 Vol. 11, No.2 of a Cheever or Mailer, is an economy bordering at times on evasion, but one can see what some call Malamud's secretiveness in a more positive light. Malamud didn't want to impose his reading of a story on his readers; in fact, he delighted in the variousness of response his stories and novels generated. One thus sees, even in the improbable genre of interview, Malamud the mensch, the modest, grandfatherly, generous man, anxious to deny his own ego, in spite of the anguish such hiding apparently covered up. The interviews suggest that Malamud was always the public gentleman. On more than one occasion, in fact, Malamud tried to interview the interviewees , showing human interest in them, refusing to treat them as objects and refusing to be treated as object. In Malamud's resistance to disclosure and speculation about his works, one can see what Malamud himself called "a certain kindness," his explanation for why he continually granted interviews even though he struggled to protect his privacy. (One must not equate kindness with a milquetoast fear of reality, or forget that Malamud's fiction didn't shy away from most of the hard social issues of his time; he confronted, for example, civil rights, the Holocaust, McCarthyism, and Vietnam in his works.) One can also sympathize with Malamud's public reticence because, one could speculate, he was prescient enough to leave literary criticism to the literary critics. He must have known intuitively that even a phenomenologist literary critic would not be interested in what he said about his life and works and would, rather, look for the deep structures of his mind through a close examination of his works and their recurrent images and themes. Indeed, anyone searching the interviews for new material on...


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