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William Dublin is middle-aged, a distinguished biographer seeking increased accomplishment and the key to his inner feelings. His marriage is stable if unexciting, and he lives comfortably with his wife in Vermont. Then his imagination is caught by Fanny, a young girl of twenty-three, and he is thrown into an intense, erotic love affair that threatens to destroy his measured, disciplined world and the lives of those around him.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099289869
ISBN-10: 0099289865
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 23mm)
Pages: 416
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 5-Aug-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » Nearing age 60, William B. Dubin, biographer of Twain and Thoreau and (soon) D. H. Lawrence, wonders if he has "given up life to write lives." And one has to wonder if that's what Bernard Malamud is wondering - because this is his least symbolic, most seemingly autobiographical novel, a bleached, gray book that (like so much semi-autobiographical work) is only intermittently affecting despite the restrained allure of Malamud's fiercely polished, gently mocking prose. Like Malamud, Dubin is a Jewish man of letters who married at 31, has two grown children, and lives in Vermont; Dubin's wife Kitty was a widow with a small son when they "married as strangers holding to strange pasts" - he answered her discreet personal ad in The Nation And now they're alone together in often-snowbound Vermont, where rigorous Dubin slaves away at turning a desk covered with index cards into a life of Lawrence. Then, as if by some Lawrentian erotic command, voila! - Fanny Bick, a sometime student and sometime house-cleaner, whose casual sexual invitation Dubin at first rejects, then welcomes in adulterous excursions to Venice (a fiasco of nausea and betrayal as Fanny makes it with a gondolier) and Manhattan. Dubin, "bored with the bounds of marriage," sneaks and lies and revels in Fanny's demanding, inventive appetites (Malamud's conscientiously energetic erotica never quite convinces), but the rest of his life fizzles: he cuckolds, and loses, his only neighbor-friend; adopted son Gerry, an army deserter, has disappeared somewhere in Russia; daughter Maud is an unmarried, pregnant Berkeley Buddhist (though far more appealing than neurotic sex kitten Fanny). Worst of all, level-headed wife Kitty becomes understandably suspicious, especially when Dubin falls impotent, and the resulting kitchen/bedroom exchanges provide some of the most genuinely hurtful marital combat since Strindberg. "He lived in six sheets of glass, shouting soundless pleas for freedom," writes Malamud, and the apparently reconciliatory ending he provides for Dubin doesn't ring true. And neither does the joyful, risky rebirth through Fanny. What does come through is enough pain and aloneness (Dubin trudging through the snow, with no company but D. H. Lawrence) to make this a monumentally sad book brightened only by the inspiring, cheering perfection of Malamud's line-by-line, word-by-word artistry. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Bernard Malamud

Bernard Malamud, one of America's most important novelists and short-story writers, was born in Brooklyn in 1914. He took his B.A. degree at the City College of New York and his M.A. at Colombia University. From 1940 to 1949 he taught in various New York schools, and then joined the staff of Oregon State University, where he stayed until 1961. Thereafter, he taught at Bennington State College, Vermont. His remarkable, and uncharacteristic first novel, The Natural, appeared in 1952. Malamud received international acclaim with the publication of The Assistant (1957, winner of the Rosenthal Award and the Daroff Memorial Award). His other works include The Magic Barrel (1958, winner of the National Book Award), Idiots First (1963, short stories), The Fixer (1966, winner of a second National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize), Pictures of Fidelman (1969), The Tenants (1971), Rembrandt's Hat (1973, short stories), Dubin's Lives (1979) and God's Grace (1982). Bernard Malamud was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, USA, in 1964, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1967, and won a major Italian award, the Premio Mondello, in 1985. Benard Malamud died in 1986.

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Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud

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Natural by Bernard Malamud

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