Irish writer Keith Ridgway is beautifully uncompromising in his pitch-perfect thug chronicles.
Amos Oz's interlocking stories are parables for a brilliant, haunted nation.
Irishman Flan O'Brien managed to introduce Disney to Swift in a comic vision of death.
Ben Lerner's 2011 debut set a fine tone for postmodern irony, but it grows repetitive.
Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer endures as a detective ahead of his time.
Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's brilliant stories eviscerate families seeking Communist-era roofs.
In a novel with autobiographical hues, Norwegian Per Petterson considers friendship and lost time.
Kazuo Ishiguro's tame Arthurian allegory ultimately shortchanges its considerable promise.
Aleksandar Hemon's poignant memoir falters when family tragedy becomes its focus.
American writer Michael Mewshaw generously recalls Gore Vidal and his tumultuous times.
Jews Without Money
By Michael Gold
Carroll & Graff, 1996, . 309 pages
The title says it all: part autobiography, part Marxist screed, this fictional autobiography, first published in 1930, chronicles the life of the Gold family on New York's Lower East Side in the decades around 1900. The cast of characters is a who's who of seedy city life: schnorrers, prostitutes and slumlords.
Gold's prose is primordial, stripped to the bone, yet the story takes unexpectedly tender twists, especially when relating the European childhood of the narrator's parents. At times he seems to have forgotten why they had emigrated in the first place. The book's message is clear, however: America has defeated the old-time religion of the author's immigrant parents and has replaced it with the God of Capitalism.
Instead praying for the Messiah, Gold's protagonist lyrically pines for the coming of the Workers' Revolution. Take it or leave it, it's worth reading for the punchy prose. With an introduction by Alfred Kazin.
Reviewed by Marc Alan Di Martino