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Almost home: Collected stories by Jonathan…

Almost home: Collected stories

by Jonathan Schwartz

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Maybe you have to be American... ( )
  Farringdon | Jul 3, 2010 |
Former DJ of formerly Progressive Rock WNEW-FM in NYC, this is the first book by Jonathan Schwartz. He has written six books since the release of this one back in 1970. When I was a teen, I listened to WNEW almost exclusively, and after I got my drivers license, my first solo trip was to a bookstore about 20 miles from my house to purchase a paperback copy of this book. That was almost 40 years ago. Somewhere along the way, it found its way out of my possession, and I’ve been searching for another copy of it ever since I found it was missing – 20 years ago when I moved to Texas. The following is a review of a re-read of the First Edition that I found in a local used-book store just 2 months ago. The wait was more than worth it.

The book is a collection of 13 short stories of fiction. The breadth of personalities in these tales (collectively) is exceeded only by the depth of the emotional complexity they possess. Had he written only from a man’s perspective, the book would be mistaken for a memoir. A lot the places and occupations he uses in the stories are from his personal experiences. He DID play piano bar in Paris for a time; he is still on the radio. And yes, almost all of the main characters are, as he is, Jewish. To me, it’s irrelevant; it doesn’t add or detract anything from any of the characters, other than to add another layer of texture. It’s the same in each story, though, so I don’t understand why it’s mentioned at all. I have to wonder if Mr. Schwartz was conscious of that fact when he amassed the stories for the book. I suppose only he could say how much of it is truly autobiographical.

Regardless, you recognize the characters in all their complexity as people you’ve probably run into at some time in your life, resplendent with subtle idiosyncrasies and insecurities that most authors don’t seem to be able to consider when developing personalities in their books. The one titled Family Matters struck me that way more than the others, but there were twelve close seconds.

Oddly enough, I haven’t bought ANY of his other books – yet. I now have a list of them, and will make it a point to get them into my collection, and my brain, as quickly as possible.

The stories were written when he was not quite thirty years old (if I have my facts right). I first read them when I was eighteen and very impressed with the depth of the characterizations. Now, closing in on sixty, and having a lifetime of experiences that I didn’t have back then, I find it astonishing that Mr. Schwartz had the insight to write about characters with such a level of introspection. There is SUCH depth to these characters!

This book gets my highest recommendation, right along side of books by Anne Fadiman, but for different reasons. ( )
  WholeHouseLibrary | Sep 5, 2009 |
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