The Rug Merchant

Phillip Lopate, Author
Phillip Lopate, Author Viking Books $16.95 (218p) ISBN 978-0-670-81434-3
Reviewed on: 03/01/1987
Release date: 03/01/1987
Readers familiar with Lopate's finely crafted, stylistically fastidious ""personal'' essays in the collection Bachelorhood will recognize immediately the protagonist of his current novel. Rug merchant Cyrus Irani is a middle-aged, steadfast bachelor brought here in childhood from his native Iran. A literary intellectual and esthete, by nature he is melancholic, introspective, painfully shy, an endlessly self-examining ``devotee of silence''as he says, a ``superfluous'' man. Troubles dog him: the avaricious landlords of his upwardly mobile Manhattan West Side neighborhood triple the rent on his marginally profitable rug shop; his relationships with women tend to dissolve into loss and pathos; his mother nags him to marry a nice Zoroastrian girl and settle down to raise a family in the orthodox tradition. What he's up to in a ``swing club,'' where anything goes, is rooted as much in desperation and self-denial as it is in a seizure of desire. Lopate maintains a tone and atmosphere of genteel defeat in his sensitive portrait, and that is the novel's high achievement. Getting shot and nearly killed by a holdup man seems more than Irani can bear, but he survives. In the end he is left only with the heavy burden of the rest of his life. (March)