Life on Sandpaper

Yoram Kaniuk, trans. from the Hebrew by Anthony Berris, Dalkey Archive, $15.95 trade paper (424p) ISBN 978-1-56478-613-5
The autobiographical latest from acclaimed Israeli novelist Kaniuk (after The Last Jew) is a masterwork of technical virtuosity and tough sentiment. Wounded in Israel's 1948 war, narrator Kaniuk arrives in New York penniless and decides to become a painter. Settling in Greenwich Village, his circle includes Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, James Dean, Tennessee Williams, and Marlon Brando, but Kaniuk never loses sight of his minor role in their stories: "I was in the lives of these people by mistake." Kaniuk marries a Broadway dancer and finds excitement everywhere, whether it's pretending to be a Soviet defector to score a dance with Ginger Rogers, or spontaneously pitching a film director. But the wonder is tempered by a tough streak: Kaniuk often behaves badly, and these lapses pass without introspection; even when his frequently betrayed wife lays out his faults, Kaniuk refuses to own or reject the problem. He's equally unforgiving with others: Wally Cox and Miles Davis are depicted as monsters; novelist James Jones is portrayed as sentimental and naïve. An essential novel about boho New York, this is not to be missed. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 02/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 450 pages - 978-1-56478-674-6
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