THE TASK OF THIS TRANSLATOR

Todd Hasak-Lowy, Author
Todd Hasak-Lowy, Author . Harcourt/ Harvest $13 (252p) ISBN 978-0-15-603112-7
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Overeducated and underemployed protagonists bottom out on stalled careers and foundering relationships in Hasak-Lowy's intelligent collection. In the strongest stories, he locates the depressive slumps of his pained, emotionally true characters in a pointed critique of American culture—the alienation of late capitalism, the superficiality of mass media, the corrosive effects of consumerism and the national obsession with gluttony and dieting. A grad student cum journalist profiles an expensive weight-loss company in the wry "Will Power, Inc." But when, for the piece, he retains a "diet escort" to forcibly prevent him from eating, he's tempted to binge, and his body balloons. Hasak-Lowy artfully reveals layers of personal and national identity in the grim "On the Grounds of the Complex Commemorating the Nazis' Treatment of the Jews," about an Israeli ex-journalist working in the cafe at Yad Vashem who clashes with an American businessman over a stale pastry. The most ambitious story, "The End of Larry's Wallet, " weaves Larry's personal struggle with a failed marriage and sick daughter with a critique of TV coverage of destruction on a near-unimaginable scale: 18 million dead in a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. The collection's more modest—and more mannered—stories feature alienated young men with estranged or deceased fathers. Though the selections are uneven, the collection's best work indicates the arrival of a cogent new Jewish-American voice. Agent, Simon Lipskar. (June)

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