BRONX BOY: A Memoir

Jerome Charyn, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $22.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-312-27810-6

By age 14, Jerome "Baby" Charyn had been hired by Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky to mix ice cream sodas. He'd established an on-again, off-again relationship with a gang headed by a heroin addict and pimped for the gang leader's girlfriend. He was familiar with Flaubert and Dostoyevski. He'd helped his blind mother (who looked like Joan Crawford) to deal a better hand of poker and, as a pimp, earned a better salary than his father (who looked like Clark Gable). Charyn, the author of more than 30 books, mostly fiction, writes this final installment of his three-part memoir (after The Black Swan and Captain Kidd) in fast, darting sentences: "I danced with Anita, her chest against mine. I was the luckiest lad at junior high. But there wasn't even a stirring in my pants. I was like a neutered cat." His affection for the East Bronx of his childhood is clear, and he turns it into a mythic place ("It began to feel like some angel was protecting the gang; each one of us had an angel on his shoulder..."). Despite a disclaimer at the end, though ("certain characters, places, and incidents portrayed in the book are the product of imaginative re-creation"), the book sometimes strains credulity, and the characters occasionally feel too alike. Still, there is no denying Charyn's storytelling abilities, and readers of the trilogy's first two volumes will enjoy this third dose of Bronx lore. (July 11)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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