Shimmer

Sarah Schulman, Author
Sarah Schulman, Author Bard Books $23 (273p) ISBN 978-0-380-97646-1
Reviewed on: 12/01/1970
Release date: 12/01/1961
Set in the McCarthy era, Schulman's seventh novel (after Rat Bohemia) is a study of justice, loyalty and selling out--a scenario of how national politics and gender bias can blight a generation's talents and livelihoods. Three distinctive narrators provide a prismatic view of New York in the late 1940s and '50s; while this device grants perspective, it sometimes gives the reader vertigo. Sylvia Golubowsky's retrospective story is the most personal--and therefore the most affecting of the three. She has worked her way up the steno pool to qualify as a reporter for the New York Star only to have editor-in-chief Jim O'Dwyer hire her unqualified brother, Lou, instead. Sylvia's oppression by her family has many echoes, in both her own life as a lesbian and in the two parallel stories in the book. Second narrator Austin Van Cleeve, an anti-New Deal patrician social columnist, is the friend and nemesis of O'Dwyer, whose liberal editorials earn him a subpoena from the dreaded HUAC. Third narrator Tammi Byfield is a contemporary black Columbia student sharing the journals of her grandfather, Cal Byfield, written at the time he was Sylvia's neighbor. Cal, a Columbia graduate who works as a cook and writes plays, wants his work to transcend the Negro theater and play on Broadway. As Sylvia's affair with Cal's white wife plays into the new sensationalistic focus of the Star, irony becomes the great leveler. More than a study of interlinked lives, the novel is a diligent, atmospherically detailed slice of social and cultural history. Schulman adroitly evokes the time when Whittaker Chambers, Miles Davis and Willy Loman were household names, when the Rosenbergs were electrocuted, blacklisting was a national shame and the man always got the job. Editor, Charlotte Abbott. (Aug.)
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