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Rich Boy
     

Rich Boy

3.2 34
by Sharon Pomerantz
 

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Robert Vishniak is the favored son of Oxford Circle, a working-class Jewish neighborhood in 1970s Philadelphia. Handsome and clever, Robert glides into the cloistered universities of New England, where scions of unimaginable wealth and influence stand shoulder to shoulder with scholarship paupers like himself who wash dishes for book money. The doors that open

Overview

Robert Vishniak is the favored son of Oxford Circle, a working-class Jewish neighborhood in 1970s Philadelphia. Handsome and clever, Robert glides into the cloistered universities of New England, where scions of unimaginable wealth and influence stand shoulder to shoulder with scholarship paupers like himself who wash dishes for book money. The doors that open there lead Robert to the highest circles of Manhattan society during the heart of the Reagan boom where everything Robert has learned about women, through seduction and heartbreak, pays off. For a brief moment, he has it all-but the world in which he finds himself is not the world from which he comes, and a chance encounter with a beautiful girl from the old neighborhood-and the forgotten life she reawakens-threatens to unravel his carefully constructed new identity.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
Compelling, finely crafted...Pomerantz's sweeping tale captures the intimate truths and hypocrisies of class, identity, and one man's quintessential American experience.
BookReporter
"Reading RICH BOY, I remember how much I loved Marjorie Morningstar... The same thing is happening here with Robert Vishniak, who spends his life trying to escape a past that he is not proud of as he infiltrates the most elite social circles. It takes place over four decades, and the story is rich and full of detail. Pomerantz worked on it for 10 years, and her attention to the craft is evident."
Peter Ho Davies
"At once a panoramic portrayal of American life from the 60s to the 80s and an intimate study of one restless dreamer of the American dream, Rich Boy offers us a vivid examination of class - the sharp and subtle distinctions between both rich and poor, and rich and wealthy. Pomerantz's book is a noteworthy addition to that long and distinguished line of American fiction about money stretching from The Great Gatsby to The Bonfire of the Vanities."
Booklist (starred review)

"Compelling, finely crafted...Pomerantz's sweeping tale captures the intimate truths and hypocrisies of class, identity, and one man's quintessential American experience."
Eileen Pollack author of In the Mouth
"Very rarely, a writer comes along who understands the very rich, and those who are determined to become very rich. Think Fitzgerald and Gatsby, Bellow and Augie March, Wolfe and Bonfire of the Vanities. And now here comes Sharon Pomerantz, bringing to life in an utterly compelling and convincing way Manhattan in the 1970s and 1980s, with all its avarice, ambition, snobbery, love, lust, and self-delusion. If you want to understand what made Bernie Madoff possible, I can think of no more serious, sensitive, and intelligent novel to read than Rich Boy."
Nicholas Delbanco
"This debut novel does something quite rare. It manages to be both detailed and general-- to tell a single story and make of it a parable, to chart the rise and fall of a representative figure in 'the American century.' Sharon Pomerantz reminds us of a truth that fiction can embody: however bright the flame or dark the burn-out, however commercial the marriage or spectacular the fraud, there are human beings at risk. Her character of Robert Vishniak is the poor Rich Boy writ large."
From the Publisher
"This debut novel does something quite rare. It manages to be both detailed and general— to tell a single story and make of it a parable, to chart the rise and fall of a representative figure in 'the American century.' Sharon Pomerantz reminds us of a truth that fiction can embody: however bright the flame or dark the burn-out, however commercial the marriage or spectacular the fraud, there are human beings at risk. Her character of Robert Vishniak is the poor Rich Boy writ large."—Nicholas Delbanco, author of What Remains and The Vagabonds"

Very rarely, a writer comes along who understands the very rich, and those who are determined to become very rich. Think Fitzgerald and Gatsby, Bellow and Augie March, Wolfe and Bonfire of the Vanities. And now here comes Sharon Pomerantz, bringing to life in an utterly compelling and convincing way Manhattan in the 1970s and 1980s, with all its avarice, ambition, snobbery, love, lust, and self-delusion. If you want to understand what made Bernie Madoff possible, I can think of no more serious, sensitive, and intelligent novel to read than Rich Boy."—Eileen Pollack author of In the Mouth, The Rabbi in the Attic, and Paradise, New York "

At once a panoramic portrayal of American life from the 60s to the 80s and an intimate study of one restless dreamer of the American dream, Rich Boy offers us a vivid examination of class - the sharp and subtle distinctions between both rich and poor, and rich and wealthy. Pomerantz's book is a noteworthy addition to that long and distinguished line of American fiction about money stretching from The Great Gatsby to The Bonfire of the Vanities."—Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl "

Compelling, finely crafted...Pomerantz's sweeping tale captures the intimate truths and hypocrisies of class, identity, and one man's quintessential American experience."—Booklist (starred review)"

Reading RICH BOY, I remember how much I loved Marjorie Morningstar... The same thing is happening here with Robert Vishniak, who spends his life trying to escape a past that he is not proud of as he infiltrates the most elite social circles. It takes place over four decades, and the story is rich and full of detail. Pomerantz worked on it for 10 years, and her attention to the craft is evident."—BookReporter

Publishers Weekly
Pomerantz digs into notions of class and wealth in her debut, chronicling the upward strivings of a middle-class Jew as he loses himself in the strange world of the fabulously wealthy. Blessed with good looks and a bright mind, Robert Vishniak dreams of escaping his Philadelphia neighborhood. His first stop is Tufts, where, in 1965, he rooms with Sanford Trace, the rogue son of a wealthy family. Robert tags along with Trace and his buddies, who introduce him to Smith College girls, fancy clothes, and New York State's elegant Tuxedo Park. Family ties become strained as Robert is seduced by beauty and privilege, attends law school at NYU, and sinks into a cushy law firm job. Much of the narrative is structured around Robert's relationships with three women: Gwendolyn Smythe, a Brit with a terrible secret; his wife, Crea, the daughter of his law firm's founding partner; and Sally Johannson, a shoeshine girl from his old neighborhood. More a soap opera than an excavation of the spiritual malaise of the wealthy, the novel will satisfy those looking for an easy-reading saga with an intriguing, complicated hero at its center. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Robert Vishniak is a striver—not a bad thing in America, land of opportunity and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. Growing up working-class Jewish in northeast Philadelphia, he quickly realizes that there is more to life than the same old neighborhood, family, and friends. He's fortunate to be good-looking and hard-working, and he gets accepted at Tufts University. There he rooms with Sanford Trace, whose family is filthy rich and powerful. Trace can't be bothered to really attend classes—which is why he is at Tufts rather than Harvard with the rest of his friends. The combination of a successful college career and the right friends launches Robert on the proverbial path to riches, career climbing, and beautiful women. In this study of money, class, and love, debut novelist Pomerantz includes a few twists on the usual poor-boy-meets-rich-girl tale, giving the reader a different look at life in America from the Sixties to the Eighties. VERDICT Sure to be found in many beach bags this summer, this novel will appeal to fans of family sagas and coming-of-age stories. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/10.]—Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780446563192
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
07/13/2011
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
731,083
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Parkway extends 469 miles from its terminus in Rockfish Gap, Virginia, to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee, North Carolina. Each mile brings new surprises, as the traveler encounters forests, barrens, and breath-taking panoramas. Ranger and naturalist William Lord takes the interested reader through the Blue Ridge, mile by mile, mountain by mountain, as he describes the wonders of wildlife that abound in this National Park. From the Shenandoah Valley to the spectacular whitewater gorge of the Nantahala, this guide gives both the novice traveler and the experienced explorer another reason to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway once again.

Meet the Author

Sharon Pomerantz is a graduate of the University of Michigan's M.F.A. program. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including The Missouri Review and Ploughshares. Her story "Ghost Knife" was included in The Best American Short Stories 2003, and "Shoes" was nationally broadcast on NPR's Selected Shorts. She currently teaches writing at the University of Michigan. This is her first novel.

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Rich Boy 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
mraugustwestie More than 1 year ago
On one level, this novel is an entertaining story of a smart, handsome Jewish boy from a poor area of Philadelphia who becomes successful despite his odds. On a more significant level, this is a study of the myriad of forces affecting one's plight to self-acceptance or self-indulgence. I was expecting stereotypes in this novel as the prodigal son; Robert Vishniak elevated himself to become part of the "right" group where money and a cloaked Jewish identity could flourish. The lack of typecasting set Ms. Pomerantz's characters and thus her plot apart from a soap opera. Robert was the handsome, smart son but he did not have a typical sacrificial Jewish mother who fawned over him. Instead, Stacia was distant and obsessed with money, she pounded away at both her sons about money and the reader felt the family was always a few days away from destitution. Hardship was the name of the game and Robert had to overcome incredulous obstacles to pivot into a position to succeed. He had looks and brains but no one really helped him, this made the story all the more realistic. He was intent on making it on his own and the author's repeated episodes of his boring, but sometimes dangerous, cab driving jobs created a feeling of insolvency and reality. In addition to Robert's mother, his family represented the blue collar Jewish family who resented the ones who were rich and kept themselves emotionally in a locked world. It seemed that if they showed any real emotion, all their strength for survival would be zapped into eternity. Pomerantz explores Robert's ascent to success with a directed theme on the Gentile rich with their names of Cates, Trace and Mignonne to the rich Jewish college kids whose parents could afford to send them to college but rebelled against their lifestyle while, with no hesitation readily accepting tuition and spending money. However, the most poignant study was Robert's encounter with women. Robert, at a young age, prevailed upon his good looks to capture women. He was a pro at seducing women but I never felt he was cruel. He used his brains and looks to overcome his money-deprived background. His first true love Gwendolyn, whom he met while an undergrad, was ferocious in its passion and loyalty. Pomerantz's exploration of this relationship and her meticulous evaluation of mental illness and despair is the best I've read. Robert's reactions to Gwendolyn and all that came after made him a determined Rich Boy. Delving into Robert's assent is fascinating and I highly recommend this book.
_JAQUELINE_ More than 1 year ago
Robert Vishniak, the main protagonist, was born after WW11 in a lower middle-class Jewish family and raised in Philadelphia. His parents raised him and his younger brother, Barry, with a strong hand and did without to guide the boys in the upward direction in all ways. They were raised to be hard workers and hard thinkers. Robert manages to get into a Boston college in the mid-sixties, where he becomes fast friends with his very wealthy roommate, Tracey. He experiences people who come from great wealth of "old money" and lives through wonderful adventures and developes many long lasting relationships. The latter years of the 1960's for Robert deal with the Vietnam War and his draft status. Robert strikes up a relationship with a wealthy young woman, falls in love, and is devastated when the romance ends. He spends too many years next running away from memories. He finally realizes, in his late 20's, that the world is passing him by and that he needs to jump back into society and live. He enters NYU Law School and chooses real-estate law as his profession. This story is gripping, compelling and believable and written with dry humor and great informed intelligence. It was a total pleasure to read.
Chowbell More than 1 year ago
This book got a fairly good review, but I am sorry that I bothered to purchase it as I had to force myself to finish it. It might appeal to younger adults.
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bettenan More than 1 year ago
The book may be entertaining, if the author had bothered to do some fact checking. There were too many inaccuracies regarding the neighborhood. Plus having grown up in that time and (exact) place I found the attitude of Robert's mother toward him almost preposterous.
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KenCady More than 1 year ago
The story is well-written, but these days the search for truth seems to require some pretty dour story-telling. This story rises or falls on its main character, Robert Vishniak. The author has given him many likable attributes, but like most men, his faults begin at the zipper and go from there. When Robert is at his worst, the story sags, as the reader wants to like him, but the author isn't having it, at least until she wants to pick the story up some, then he becomes likable again. In the end, the book is a commentary on much of life today, and it succeeds at that, but life today isn't all that cheerful.
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