"The story will be with us as long as man is. You know that, in part, because of its effect on children. It’s through story they realize that mystery won’t kill them. Through story they learn they have a future."
In hindsight, Bernard Malamud
’s death in 1986 when he was 72 was a bad career move. Philip Roth, to take another Jewish-American novelist, will be 73 this year, and his “late stage” work is among his most impressive; Saul Bellow, born a year after Malamud, was prolific till his demise last year at 90. Malamud’s eminence, on the other hand, has waned in recent years – even though no-one can deny the power and skill so evident in novels such as The Assistant
or The Tenants
and -- of course -- in his mythical, magical short stories
Perhaps more than anyone else, his work evoked the sensibility of the East European immigrant in the New World, with its vernacular, its superstitions and its kvetching. In this, he paved the way for the likes of Nathan Englander and even David Bezmozgis. (Aleksander Hemon and Jonathan Lethem
have also recently and publicly acknowledged his influence.) Nevertheless, his fictional world remains distinctive because of the blend of allegory and realism that he made his own.
Now, in the 20th anniversary year of Malamud's death, his daughter, Janna Malamud Smith, is set to publish a memoir, My Father Is A Book
-- a personal chronicle that also delves into the author’s unpublished papers and journals. As Ms Malamud Smith has the reputation of being a writer of note herself, her book is definitely among those that one is looking forward to reading in 2006.