Bottom of the Box- The Tenants

This is Bernard Malamud.

Doesn’t he look like a writer?

The glasses, the typewriter…

I love typewriters, must be the Luddite** in me:-)

Bernard Malamud’s,

The Tenants,                                                     book cover of   The Tenants   by  Bernard Malamud

is the first review for my new,

 bottom of the box feature.

In which I rescue books from oblivion,

well actually,

 from my snowy quarter (25¢) rack,

the one that sits in the entrance to my bookstore.

My copy of this novel,

doesn’t look nearly as nice as the one pictured above,

it is quite decrepit.

It’s merits are:

it is missing no pages and

 it is small and light,

making it easy to carry in my book bag,

without wrenching my shoulder.

Bernard Malamud won The Pulitzer and,

 The National Book Award,

twice.

  In an empty and crumbling tenement of the inner city, two men meet, and their confrontation as rivals- sexually, intellectually, physically-becomes a powerful and lyrical metaphor of human relations in our time- This from the back cover of the Pocket Books edition.

This novel was published in 1971 in the USA,

a time of racial strife and inner city decay and violence.

Harry Lesser is a writer,

his first novel was a critical success,

his second suffered from the sophomore jinx.

He has been working on his third for the past ten years.

Luckily he sold the first to the movies,

and has been living on the deferred payments ever since.

Harry’s landlord, Levenspiel,

wants him to vacate his apartment,

 so he can tear it down and have a newer,

 more lucrative building erected in it’s place.

Harry is the last hold out,

and since the tenement is rent controlled,

he has the law on his side.

Harry is close to finishing his book,

 and feels that if he moves,

he will loose his momentum.

Harry has no life,

 he writes.

                         What have I done to myself? So much I no longuer see or feel except in language.  Life once removed- page 98

                         and

                        I write it right but say it wrong , lesser thought.

                        I write it right because I revise so often.

                        What I say is unrevised and often wrong.- page 114

Into Harry’s,

 all but abandoned building and life,

 erupts Willie Spearmint,

an aspiring black writer.

These are the late sixties, early seventies, black was beautiful and no one had heard of African Americans, yet…

Willie is a force of nature all about writing but, also about passion.

Willie knows nothing of form or structure,

he just pounds away at the typewriter and, life.

Harry and Willie are a study in contrasts,

one Jewish,

one Black,

one slender and tall,

one stocky and powerfully built,

one a ladykiller,

one inept with women.

These two men come to mean much to each other,

both positive and ultimately,

destructive.

OK, I have to tell you,

 I really liked this novel.

Once I started I had to finish.

It is short, 211 pages.

I expected a Phillip Roth like experience,

and we all know how much I like Roth!!

I misjudged,

 I had heard Malamud compared to Roth and Bellow.

I have no comment on Bellow, I read one novel years ago, and have no real memory of it.

I found Malamud to be much more satisfying than Roth.

This novel deals with difficult issues.

Race, the objectification of women, the personal cost of creation.

It is a one gripping read.

I also appreciated that there are no real villains or heroes.

No white hat, black hat, bull.

Nothing politically correct about it,

a sensitive and accomplished work of art.

About flesh and blood people,

 full of promise and prejudices,

people, warts and all.

I am so glad I rescued it from the bottom of the box,

a 25¢ well spent, my friends !!

I enjoyed this feature,

 I think I’ll do it again,

 soon.

What do you think?

 Should I?

Later girls,

BB

** A Luddite is one who is opposed to technological change. I am not opposed, I just like the aesthetics of typewriters and card catalogues etc. But, I won’t give up my laptop, how else could I communicate with you all:-)***

Published by

Bookish Butch

I am a bookish butch in my very early fifties. I live in Montréal and always have. I used to run a small used bookstore. Reading keeps me sane. My latest jiggie is photography, book project in the works, living the dream

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