The World in Pieces

Bart Midwood, Author, Barton Midwood, Author
Bart Midwood, Author, Barton Midwood, Author Permanent Press (NY) $24 (208p) ISBN 978-1-57962-008-0
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Working in Brooklyn's Prospect Park on his translation of a German novel, Midwood--a character in his own witty, deeply self-conscious and flawed fifth novel (after Bennett's Angel) meets and befriends Anchel and Surah, an elderly but agelessly beautiful brother and sister who die within weeks of each other and bequeath Midwood a box of their papers. Out of this box come stories, diaries, an entire family romance (in its fullest Freudian sense) that leads Midwood into correspondence with Lo Yadua, the Israeli son of Anchel's and Surah's incestuous union. Chronicling this tormented family history of three generations--from the rebellious polyglot grandmother in fin-de-siecle Vienna to the kibbutznik son--in the very limited, ordinary language of his characters, Midwood puts himself more in the tradition of Sholom Aleichem or Art Spiegelman than of, say, Thomas Mann. Midwood's approach doesn't always work. Although several of the characters speak maddeningly awkward English, it tends to be the same awkward English, no matter whether the person speaking it is Italian or Israeli. This inability to make the ordinary language of his characters truly their own--when so much depends on Midwood's ability to write in distinguishable dialects--is ultimately frustrating, despite the book's considerable intelligence, humor and sensitivity. (June)
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