The Education of Robert Nifkin

The Education of Robert Nifkin

by Daniel Pinkwater


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The Education of Robert Nifkin is the education of a beatnik. Set in 1950s Chicago and conveyed in the form of a college essay, Robert Nifkin details his journey from a mind-numbing high school that smells to the curriculum-free carnival of a private school ruled by bohemians, beatniks, and freaks.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618552085
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/26/2010
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 188
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.43(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Daniel Pinkwater is crazy about writing, and has been trying to learn how to do it for fifty years. He has written about a hundred books, all but two or three of them good. People who own radios may know Daniel Pinkwater as a popular commentator and children’s book reviewer on National Public Radio. At one time, he lived in Los Angeles, went to a fancy private school with the children of movie stars, and ate in The Hat numerous times. He lives with his wife, the illustrator and novelist Jill Pinkwater, and several dogs and cats in a very old farmhouse in New York’s Hudson River Valley.

Read an Excerpt

My father is a son-of-a-bitch from Eastern Europe. Where he came from, getting as far as high school was a pretty big deal. He never made it. Neither did my mother, who is along similar lines to my father, although she came over when she was very young and doesn't speak with an accent. As far as my parents are concerned, when you hit high school you are an adult.
In my family, that means you are even more on your own than previously. My parents believe in the principle of "Sink or swim," or "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger—or it kills you." So, when I hit Riverview High School, all supervision stopped, all restrictions were lifted. I could go where I wanted, stay out as late as I wanted, hang out with anybody, do anything—officially, that is. Mom and Dad were never very consistent. Any privileges could be, and were, suspended whenever they felt like it, especially my father.
When I decided I would smoke, for example, my father smacked the cigarette out of my face—and my face. This did not mean I was not allowed to smoke—just that I was not allowed to smoke cigarettes, which my father associated with men who lived off the immoral earnings of women. I was allowed to smoke cigars, however.
"Only not dem little cigars vitch also makes you look like some pimp," my father said.
Great big stogies were manly, and perfectly all right with him, and he even gave me a five-pack of Wolf Brothers Rum-Soaked Crooks to get me started right.
As a high-schooler, I was now also permitted to buy my own clothes, out of my allowance—but I could buy them only in stores my father personally approved. This meant that I could purchase trousers only at Kupferman's Pants on Roosevelt Road, and Kupferman, a friend of my father's, would sell me only one kind, blue-gray worsted wool, with pleats, and raised black twisted wiggles woven into the fabric.
"Dese are deh poifect pants for a young man in high school," Kupferman, who talks just like my father, says. "Dey vear like iron." They also feel like iron. They make a noise when you walk, and chafe your thighs until you get used to them. You can strike matches on them.
My father gave me a brown leather briefcase, with straps, probably the only one like that in America, and a plaid scarf.
"Now you look like a sport," he said.
What I looked like was someone going to high school in maybe Lodz or Krakow, maybe twenty years ago, or my father's idea of such a person.
I forgot to mention that my father forced me to buy a pair of heavy black shoes with soles about an inch thick. They look like diver's boots and are supposed to last me the rest of my life. Which they will. Easily.
Thus, when I set out for my first day at Riverview, my appearance clearly marked me as a model geek. I was still getting used to the industrial footwear and developing the strength necessary to lift each foot. This gave me a sort of Frankenstein-monster gait. The briefcase, containing two brand- new notebooks and two Wolf Brothers Rum-Soaked Crooks cigars, bounced against my ironclad knee. I was sweating, and the extra-heavy-duty black hornrims, which my father's friend Julius the Optician had sold me, were slipping down my nose. I had the feeling—but set it down to first-day jitters— that I was about to descend into hell.
You should always trust your feelings.

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The Education of Robert Nifkin 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
suamanullah on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my most highly recommended books would be The Education Of Robert Nifkin by Daniel Pinkwater. The main characters of the story are Robert Nifkin, Pamela/Natasha Kenny Papescue, and Linda Pudvokin. Robert always had negative things on his mind and never seemed to be satisfied with anything he seen or gotten. Pamela/Natasha is a mysterious type of girl. She always acts strange in front of Robert and other people. Kenny and Linda are two teenagers currently dating and hoping to get married and move to Paris. Robert starts school in the 1950¿s in the city of Chicago. He moved from California and beginning to attend Riverview High school. When he began attending Riverview, he plain out hated it. He dislikes how his parents act and lifestyle in their home. He hates the atmosphere and environment of the school and students. Even though the school may be unpleasant, he explores around the city. The city has many things to offer Robert Nifkin. He meets a lot of different people in Chicago. Robert does many tricks to change a lot of stuff in his life. He even switched high schools. From what I read, I would recommend this book. This book can relate to people currently in high school or just starting something new. This book has many hilarious moments which made this book more interesting to read. When you reach all the twist and turns that occur, you will just want to never stop reading this book. If you want to find out what happens with Robert in his beginning high school and new switched high school, I recommend that you read this book and I highly believe that it will be worth it. This book has a lot of things to offer such as a great ending to the story. There will be many shocks, surprises, and twist and turn if you read this detailed and hilarious book.
TeresaWoolvett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Education of Robert Nifkin by Daniel Pinkwater takes place when America was busy defending itself against the evils of communism and many of Pinkwater¿s jokes are based in this historical context. The beginning of this book is humorous in places but the humor is quickly replaced with continuous descriptions of unlikely characters as they are randomly introduced into Robert¿s life. The characters are many and their names are very confusing. The dialogue between the characters is quick, haphazard and hard to follow. The end of the book becomes more of a list of what Robert and his friends are accomplishing, good and bad than a story. I did laugh out loud while I read the descriptions of Robert and his family but as this story continued it became laborious to finish.
ejmam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite blurb for this book is the one Daniel Pinkwater wrote for himself: "The Education of Robert Nifkin is a true-to-life story of a sensitive and affectionate boy and his heart-warming adventures with his perfectly normal friends in Chicago in the 1950s." That is, if normal includes the high school from hell, complete with anti-Semite teachers, Marxist ROTC leaders, and math taught by copying text into a notebook. Luckily Robert meets some normal friends, who lead him to a progressive school where no one expects students to attend class. Instead, he hangs out at lunch rooms, smokes cigars, and wanders the city. In Pinkwater's world, that is normal.Robert manages to get a good education, especially during the summer session where the cynical teachers actually challenge the kids to learn. As a kid, I'd enjoy the satire of traditional schools and the cool private school where kids have the freedom to actually learn. As an adult, I couldn't enjoy the joke as much -- these kids deserved better! B
mdyewhea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very witty, quick read! Daniel Pinkwater is very talented chameleon of writing...
Richj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A joyous book about high school and education and Chicago. A much better high school experience than any of us acutaly had.
labellavita More than 1 year ago
On my (short) journey of reading this book, there was only one thing I could do, erupt on the floor with laughter! I will never forget reading this book. It is one of my favorite books and I recommend it to anyone alive and breathing. I also recommend it to those who are just looking for something to lift up their souls, wipe the frown of their faces and replace it with tons of laugh-out-loud moments. "The Education of Robert Nifkin" is entertaining, comical, witty, and priceless. It is an unforgettable read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is an essay on high school experiences that Robert Nifkin wrote to get into St. Leon's College. Robert is a fairly chubby kid who has just moved to Chicago. He doesn't have any friends; his father is a pretty crazy guy from Eastern Europe with a funny accent. His mother is normal but she is a very bad cook. His first day of Riverview High school was a disaster. He went to his assigned home base and found that his teacher (Mrs. Kukla) was a crazy anti-Communist. She screamed at the top of her lungs all the time and accused Robert of being a communist. Then he went to Gym class and his gym teacher made fun of his weight and ordered him to run laps. His next class was English. He walked in and found a pretty young teacher named Mrs. MacAllister. She seemed fairly normal at first but then she started warning the kids about Jewish people and how they had a secret plan to destroy society. She was crazy too. He went to Science after that then history. His Science teacher had mold growing on the walls and his history teacher looked like he hadn't taken a shower in weeks. He already hated high school. Every day he dreaded going to school. Then he got sick of Mrs. Kukla calling him a communist so he joined the ROTC which means Reserve Officers Training Corps at his school. He went there every day and all they talked about was how to put on your uniform correctly. Robert didn't get his uniform right away because he was bigger than all the kids so he had to have a uniform specially ordered. Every Friday they had to wear their uniforms. Robert met his first friend at Melburgers, an extremely greasy burger restaurant down the street from his apartment. Her name was Linda. She was a tomboy who was also a little chubby. She introduced Robert to her boyfriend Kenny. Kenny and Robert became good friends and together they delivered expensive artifacts to people all over the city. They each split the profit. Kenny had dropped out of school so he worked all day and Robert helped him after school. Robert started skipping school also and helped Kenny with the deliveries. When he was forced to go back to school he didn't go back to Riverview. He decided to go to a prep school, then summer school at the prep school. And now he is writing the essay to get into college. I liked it because it was very funny and interesting. It sometimes got a little weird and made you think. I recommend this book to people over the age of about 12 because of the language and the adult humor. If you are looking for a good laugh, read The Education of Robert Nifkin by Daniel Pinkwater.