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The Magic Barrel: Stories by Bernard Malamud

The Magic Barrel: Stories (1955)

by Bernard Malamud

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
What I liked best was the sense of living 60 years ago or so, that the references and common practices in the world were a bit different than today. Still with these folks living in the past, they are universally just like we are, their worries are so specific and exactly like ours. I am not explaining this well, but imagine that I was able to think just like the tailor Manischevitz, and wonder if the earth was giving me a test. Fantastic stuff. ( )
  Akunsak | Feb 5, 2015 |

Bernard Malamud's first short story collection, The Magic Barrel, won the 1959 National Book Award. Does that make it a great book?

I am drawn to 20th and 21st century male writers, especially to Americans. In part, this must reflect the sexism of the publishing industry, especially early in the century. Partly, it must reflect a prejudice that I have (that most boys must have, or else why would the psuedonyms JK Rowling and SE Hinton and Franklin W. Dixon exist?).

In half-jest, when I last re-organized and pruned my books, I filled an entire bookcase with books about lonely men. Roth and Hemingway and Miller and Coetzee and Faulkner.

But I was disappointed by the lonely men populating Malamud's thirteen stories. Even those who have women in their lives don't know how to allow themselves to be helped. The women are either at home with the children ("Behold the Key"), harping about money ("The Bill"), laying in bed dying ("Angel Levine"), or prizes to be idealize, won or discarded ("The Magic Barrel," "The Lady of the Lake," and "The Girl of My Dreams," respectively).

For fun, let's apply the Bechdel Test to The Magic Barrel.
1) Are there two or more women in it that have names? Yes.
2) Do they talk to each other? No.
3) Do they talk about something other than a man? No.

I think the Bechdel test has plenty of flaws. Primarily, that the development or failure of a relationship between two people is the most ripe topic for art in human history, and for most of human history, characters in stories were limited to one of two genders. Relatedly, given the constrictions of focused story-telling (unless you're going the Ulysses route and throwing in everything), once we establish the development of a relationship as a theme, the audience expects nearly all scenes and conversations to revolve around that theme). So yes, we should expect nearly every love story to fail the test (and, in their fashion, each of Malamud's short stories is a love story).

But all the same, I was surprised by the uniformity of the characters in The Magic Barrel. Too many lonely men, going about their same old lives the same old way. ( )
  jscape2000 | Aug 29, 2013 |
Mildly classic.

I mean, he has some skill, but I just don't see what he does that we shouldn't have expected him to do, at least.

(8/10) ( )
  Tullius22 | May 7, 2012 |
Thirteen stories about Jewish lives in the 1940's and 1950's.
  Folkshul | Jan 15, 2011 |
Book Description: Pennsylvania: The Franklin Library, 1978. 23x15cms. Limited edition (The Collected Stories of the World's Greatest Writers) hc full, tan leather with elaborate gilt decorated boards & spine. raised bands, all edges gilt with yellow silken endpapers and matching ribbon marker. 453pp incl colour illustrations by Silverman and authors port. by Walter Rane. minor offset from marker on pg 241/215 o/w clean text. tight binding.
  Czrbr | Jun 7, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
What a masterpiece of compression—yet with the lightness and swiftness of a Rembrandt sketch.

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Malamud, Bernardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coutinho, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Feld, the shoemaker, was annoyed that his helper, Sobol, was so insensitive to his reverie that he wouldn't for a minute cease his fanatic pounding at the other bench.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374525862, Paperback)

Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

Introduction by Jhumpa Lahiri

Bernard Malamud's first book of short stories, The Magic Barrel, has been recognized as a classic from the time it was published in 1959. The stories are set in New York and in Italy (where Malamud's alter ego, the struggleing New York Jewish Painter Arthur Fidelman, roams amid the ruins of old Europe in search of his artistic patrimony); they tell of egg candlers and shoemakers, matchmakers, and rabbis, in a voice that blends vigorous urban realism, Yiddish idiom, and a dash of artistic magic.

The Magic Barrel is a book about New York and about the immigrant experience, and it is high point in the modern American short story. Few books of any kind have managed to depict struggle and frustration and heartbreak with such delight, or such artistry.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:25 -0400)

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