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,


  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


                        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,


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,


What do you think?

 Should I?

Later girls,


** 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:-)***

The bottom of the box

The Habs have lost 8 of their last 10 games,

I believe the appropriate expression is,

 free fall.

Not looking good for the playoffs.

The weather on the other hand is amazing.

It has been unseasonably mild,

 even if a little bit grey.

Sort of like London, but less posh:-)

Today the sky is blue and it is a little colder,

a fair trade off.

I am feeling giddy.

It’s weird I don’t usually do, giddy.

But, I can think of no other word,

I’m floating around,

and just so you know,

I don’t do drugs,

an all natural buzz.

Must be the new year and catching up on sleep.

Three, four goodnights’ sleep and,

 the old butch is spitting fire.

I have been reading Brideshead Revisited,

I thought I would have it finished for New Year’s,

but, no.

It’s slow going, I can’t seem to concentrate.

Since, I am back to work tomorrow,

I should finish by the end of the week.

I used to be hung up on how many I read and reviewed,

right now?

Not so much.

After I finish Brideshead, I am going to be reading,

 The Tenants by Bernard Malamud.

It will be part of a new feature I am instituting:

The bottom of the box.

Here’s the thing,

 the bottom of the box,

are books of real interest,

 in sorry ass shape,

found at the bottom of the box.

I usually put them on the quarter rack, outside.

But, sometimes there are pearls amongst the detritus,

coffee stained, cat hair infested and water logged, pearls,

but pearls nonetheless.

I clean them up and sometimes read them,

before the quarter rack.


occasionally I will share my impressions of them.

Bernard Malamud is,

 an American writer,

his most famous work I think is, The Natural.

I tried reading The Natural, years ago,

hated it.

It could be that I will feel the same way about The Tenants.

It looks promising.

Hopefully it will not be like my foray into Phillip Roth,


Do you like the idea of the bottom of the box?

You never know what you will come up with,

a little bit adventurous and off the beaten path.

Nothing wrong with that,

especially if it involves no rain or mosquitoes,

just books.


that’s it for now

Later girls