The Double Life of Alfred Buber

David Schmahmann. Permanent, $28 (198p) ISBN 978-1-57962-218-3
Alfred Buber, the narrator of Schmahmann's (Empire Settings) second novel, is a man both prissy and sordid. He describes himself as portly, little, middle-aged, bald, with beady eyes, a big nose, and hairless legs. He's a partner in a stodgy Boston law firm and lives in the grand house he began building as a young lawyer. He's also old-fashioned, formal, dryly witty, and recognizes that his way of trying to fit into the world only serves to isolate him. His fetishistic attraction to Asian girls, which developed during his youth in Rhodesia, eventually leads him into a double life: he travels to Asia for sex with very young prostitutes. But at the Star of Love Bar, after watching public sexual encounters, then experiencing his own, matter-of-factly, as though "she were changing a bandage on my leg," Buber also experiences love, touched by the beautiful teenage girl, Nok, who he first sees paging a child's book, trying to learn English. Buber moves back and forth in time and place, to Boston, to Europe, to Bangkok, trying to figure out his life, wedded to both his personas, and as both his lives slowly unravel, he faces the consequence of his waffling. Schmahmann has captured desperation and love between unequals. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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