The New York Times
Bernard Malamud: A Writer's Lifeby Philip Davis
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Philip Davis tells the story of Bernard Malamud (1914-1986), the self-made son of poor Jewish immigrants who went on to become one of the foremost novelists and short-story writers of the post-war period. The time is ripe for a revival of interest in a man who at the peak of his success stood alongside Saul Bellow and Philip Roth in the ranks of Jewish American writers. Nothing came easily to Malamud: his family was poor, his mother probably committed suicide when Malamud was 14, and his younger brother inherited her schizophrenia. Malamud did everything the second time round - re-using his life in his writing, even as he revised draft after draft. Davis's meticulous biography shows all that it meant for this man to be a writer in terms of both the uses of and the costs to his own life. It also restores Bernard Malamud's literary reputation as one of the great original voices of his generation, a writer of superb subtlety and clarity. Bernard Malamud: A Writer's Life benefits from Philip Davis's exclusive interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, unfettered access to private journals and letters, and detailed analysis of Malamud's working methods through the examination of hitherto unresearched manuscripts. It is very much a writer's life. It is also the story of a struggling emotional man, using an extraordinary but long-worked-for gift, in order to give meaning to ordinary human life.
The New York Times
Bernard Malamud (1914-86) was one of America's major post-World War II Jewish writers. Here, Davis (English literature, Liverpool Univ.; The Victorians, 1830-1880) does an excellent job describing the interrelation between Malamud's difficult life and his profound art. He gives a careful and honest account of Malamud's upbringing (his mother and brother both suffered from mental illness), his early poverty, and his complicated marriage and clearly describes Malamud's dedication to his art and his desire to be a good and moral person. He further examines Malamud's short stories and novels (e.g., The Natural; The Assistant; The Fixer) for themes, ideas, and symbols. In an important contribution, Davis shows Malamud's drafts at various stages of completion, explaining how Malamud created his style through the development of structure, language, and rhythm. This first full-length biography of the author, for which Davis drew on private journals and letters and interviewed many of Malamud's family members, friends, and colleagues, is a wonderful addition to Malamud studies; recommended for literature collections.
At the beginning of the 21st-century, a vanguard of young, affluent black leadership has emerged, often clashing with older generations of black leadership for power. The 2002 Newark mayoral race, which featured a contentious battle between the young black challenger Cory Booker and the more established black incumbent Sharpe James, was one of a series of contests in which young, well-educated, moderate black politicians challenged civil rights veterans for power. In The New Black Politician, Andra Gillespie uses Newark as a case study to explain the breakdown of racial unity in black politics, describing how black political entrepreneurs build the political alliances that allow them to be more diversely established with the electorate.
Based on rich ethnographic data from six years of intense and ongoing research, Gillespie shows that while both poor and affluent blacks pay lip service to racial cohesion and to continuing the goals of the Civil Rights Movement, the reality is that both groups harbor different visions of how to achieve those goals and what those goals will look like once achieved. This, she argues, leads to class conflict and a very public breakdown in black political unity, providing further evidence of the futility of identifying a single cadre of leadership for black communities. Full of provocative interviews with many of the key players in Newark, including Cory Booker himself, this book provides an on the ground understanding of contemporary Black and mayoral politics.
Article: Black politics, reinvented — Salon.com speaks to Andra Gillespie
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Meet the Author
Philip Davis is Professor of English Literature in the School of English, University of Liverpool. He has been reading Malamud for over thirty years. The opportunity for this Englishman to write the first-ever biography of this major American novelist arose as a result of a chance meeting at a graduation ceremony in Liverpool, when news reached him that the Malamud family were looking for a biographer after nearly twenty years of discouraging the writing of a life.
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