The Book of Intimate Grammar

David Grossman, Author, Betsy Rosenberg, Translator Farrar Straus Giroux $22 (343p) ISBN 978-0-374-11547-0
Again displaying the special insights into adolescent psychology previously seen in See Under: Love , Israeli novelist Grossman has fashioned a powerful, emotionally devastating novel that chronicles a young boy's fears, anguish and breakdown. Aron Kleinfeld is 11 and a half when we meet him and his crass, ill-bred parents in a seedy Jerusalem housing project. Sensitive and imaginative, he is a great dreamer and ringleader of escapades among his circle of friends, though they are beginning to scorn his childish fantasies. Other signs of stress soon appear: his parents' anxious references to Aron's slow growth and his own awareness of his short stature and scrawny physique, coupled with his observation of the signs of puberty in his pals, make Aron acutely self-conscious and arouse feelings of humiliation and self-hatred. Aron, reluctant to mature socially, psychologically and physically, becomes so revolted by the adult world of hairy armpits and sex and complex, mediated feelings that he eventually feels that ``having a body is itself a defect.'' Yet the reader's sympathy for this naive, gauche nebbish grows in proportion to Aron's suffering, as Grossman brilliantly creates Aron's agonized stream of consciousness. Painfully lonely, feeling rejected by family and friends, to Aron ``. . . words had come to be utterly inward, whispering a grammar so intimate and tortuous they could never break forth into the light.'' Grossman's portrait of Aron will stand as a classic study of adolescent turmoil set against the muted backdrop of his country's imminent, violent and compromised coming of age in the Six-Day War of 1967. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1994
Release date: 08/01/1994
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