Loads of Learned Lumber

Monday, June 16, 2008

David Bezhmozhgis, _Natasha_

If Gary Shteyngart is the Roth of the new Russian Jewish emigré North American fiction -- and surely he is, with the extravagance of narrative incident, the teasingly-close-to-autobiographical characters, the playfulness with form -- then is David Bezhmozghis the Malamud?  The intelligent narrators revealed by events to be disastrously naïve in some critical aspect, the sense of humor as dry as the Negev, the terrible burden of Jewishness that is so terribly loved, the mercy the author extends to the schlimazels of this earth?

Or -- since all the stories are about the same utterly idiosyncratic family and narrated by the same member of it, is he the Salinger?

Enh, I don't know.  But he's damn good.  Every story in here works, and "Tapka," "Natasha," and "Minyan" will be with me for a long time.

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