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My Father Is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard…

My Father Is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud

by Janna Malamud Smith

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I was not aware that Bernard Malamud's daughter had written a book about her famous father. But when I came across this book in a Grand Rapids discount books store I pounced on it, because I spent many happy hours reading Malamud's fine fiction from college onward. It seemed hard to believe that Malamud has been gone for over twenty years now, victim of a heart attack at 72. His daughter writes what seems a very fair and balanced account of her famous father's life and career, placing him rightly in the middle of that triad of great Jewish writers of the mid-twentieth century: Bellow, Malamud and Roth. There are many anecdotes here of other literary lights of the time, but she also pays attention to her father's hard-pressed childhood, his grocer father and his mother and brother who both suffered from mental illness. Much is made of Malamud's single-minded dedication to his craft, born of his determination to rise above his roots and be know for his writing. In this he certainly succeeded, perhaps sometimes at his own family's expense. However, unlike Peggy Salinger's memoir of her famous father which left a kind of sour taste, Janna makes it very clear that she loved her father and never doubted his love for her either. She even seems to forgive him his affairs - which were news to me, of course. But she broke that unpleasant news in such a way that it didn't seem quite so awful as it might have. But this is also a memoir, and the author herself comes across well, as a child of the turbulent sixties, but one who turned out okay in the end. Janna Malamud Smith is a peron I'd like to meet. Most importantly, however, she has written a fine book which is a warm tribute to a father she admired and loved. I hope this book will help to introduce a new generation of readers to the wonderful books of Bernard Malamud. ( )
  TimBazzett | Nov 25, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618691669, Hardcover)

On the twentieth anniversary of Bernard Malamud's death, Janna Malamud Smith explores her renowned father's life and literary legacy. Malamud was among the most brilliant novelists of his era, the author of the Pulitzer Prize winner The Fixer, as well as The Natural and The Assistant -- named one of the best "100 All-Time Novels" by Time. He counted among his friends Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Theodore Roethke, and Shirley Jackson. Yet Malamud was also very private. Only his family has had full access to his personal papers, including revealing letters and journals that offer unique insight into the man and his work. In her candid, evocative, and loving memoir, his daughter brings Malamud to vivid life as no one else can.

Bernard Malamud, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, grew up in Brooklyn in a home overshadowed by poverty and mental illness. Unable to earn a living in New York, he took a teaching position in Oregon and moved his young family there. For Janna, it was an idyllic time and place. Her father was warm, funny, and passionate about his writing, which was gaining national attention. In 1961, an appointment to Bennington College brought the Malamuds back east and right into the middle of the heady, often hilarious free-for-all that was campus life in that radically changing time. But Bennington’s anything-goes atmosphere and Malamud’s growing fame came at a price to his family: his deep belief that one should live morally crashed into his premise that one should live fully.

Janna Malamud Smith speaks as only a daughter can of a fraught relationship with an adored father. In glowing praise of My Father Is a Book, Susan Cheever -- who also wrote memorably of her own father, John Cheever -- says, "This loving portrait of a writer's family from the inside describes good times and difficulties with affection and candor and provides a fascinating backstory for Malamud's great fiction."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:18 -0400)

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