Sleepless Nights

Andrew Bergman, Author
Andrew Bergman, Author Dutton Books $19.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-55611-400-7
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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The underside of a seemingly refined and respectable German-Jewish family living in Manhattan is trenchantly observed in this novel from Bergman, a mystery author ( Hollywood and Levine ) and screenwriter ( Blazing Saddles ), who here gives new dimensions to the term ``dysfunctional family.'' Narrator Robby Weisglass is only 12 in 1955 when his 22-year-old sister Carol, a lingerie model, seduces him, and it isn't much later that his mother, who has been openly provocative for years, walks into his room and initiates sex. Thirty years pass and Robby, now an admired professor of history at Columbia and a 20-year veteran of psychotherapy, is deeply ambivalent toward his family, riddled with guilt and unable to form lasting relationships. The author approaches his theme of incest in a convincingly analytical fashion, with much introspection by the promiscuous Carol and long sessions on the psychiatrist's couch for Robby; as children of Holocaust survivors, they have special problems to grapple with. Throughout, Bergman uses a biting wit and a firm knowledge of Jewish family dynamics to bring out the best--and the worst--in the Weisglass menage. A mordant glimpse of the family's generational and cultural gaps is rendered when, in 1951, they all lunch in the crowded but sedate dining room of a ``gentile'' resort. Carol declares in delight, ``This is real America''--to which her mother retorts, ``And that's so wonderful?'' Black humor, keen insight and an uncompromising eye make for fine reading here. (June)
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