The Revisionist

Helen Schulman, Author
Helen Schulman, Author Crown Publishing Group (NY) $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-609-60208-9
Hardcover - 978-0-609-00051-9
Paperback - 246 pages - 978-1-58234-172-9
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David Hershleder, the 39-year-old Bellevue neurologist at the center of Schulman's sensitive but occasionally strained second novel (after Out of Time), is watching his life unravel. His wife, Itty, has kicked him out of his expensive suburban house in Westchester and taken up with a younger man; his little son, Jonathan, has been talking in a made-up language consisting of numbers and doesn't have any friends at school; and Hershleder himself is increasingly absentminded, haunted by memories of his life's great failures and losses, including the death of his mother, a survivor of the Nazi death camps. Into this midlife muddle wanders the book review of a 1000-page book ""proving"" that the Holocaust happened, written by a former Holocaust denier and translated by someone Hershleder used to know, David Josephson, the old college roommate of Hershleder's best friend, David Kahn. Oddly (and never quite convincingly) obsessed with the book, Hershleder journeys with Kahn to California to visit Josephson, who turns out to be an academic made paranoid by a brain injury; then all three Davids extend the road trip by taking a Paris vacation and meeting the book's author. Why? Hershleder doesn't quite know, except that ""He was curious about how a person can have the guts to rethink his life."" Schulman is a good writer who knows a certain New York Jewish idiolect to a breath's precision--knows, also, her protagonist's masculine despairs and desires as if by heart--but seems in search of a conceit to puff a very poignant short story into an existential, trans-Atlantic road novel. Some readers will wish she had stayed on home turf. Author tour. (Sept.)
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