Liebestod: Opera Buffa with Leib Goldkorn

Leslie Epstein. Norton, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-08131-2
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Lieb Goldkorn, as followers of his adventures—collected in previous volumes by his amanuensis Epstein—know, is a flautist, graduate of the Akademie für Musik, Philosophie, und darstellende Kunst, Holocaust survivor, and former lover of Carmen Miranda (among others). More recently the 105-year-old’s devotion to New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani has led to a restraining order, and at the outset of this “memorial,” as the English-mangling Lieb calls it, he’s on the verge of suicide. Then comes a letter from the “Holocaust Festivities Committee” of Iglau (or Jihlava, its Czech name) wishing to honor their “last living Hebrew.” In the old country, Lieb receives the key to his childhood home, realizes he’s Gustav Mahler’s son, lives through a pogrom, and that’s not the half of it. Throw in opera, Condoleezza Rice, the Satmar branch of Hasidism, the Golem, the Twelve Steps, a remarkably durable fascination with “mams” (breasts), and terrorists. Opera buffa is a genre of comic opera that usually features a patter song: a high-speed tongue twister performed by a singer with a distinctive voice. Clearly this is how Epstein sees this Lieb Goldkorn outing; readers who find Goldkorn’s amatory, operatic, and linguistic exploits amusing will agree. Those with less patience or a higher demand for internal logic will not. Agent: ZSH Literary. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/28/2011
Release date: 02/01/2012
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