April 23, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Partly Cloudy 19°C
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Fiction

War Music

Christopher Logue's personal "Iliad" recharges Homer and makes the ancient actual.

The Heart of a Dog

In 1925, Mikhail Bulgakov riffed off a botched operation to slice into communism.

Doctor Glas

Hjalmer Söderberg's sinister story is an early and superb example of psychoanalytic literature.

The Encyclopedia of the Dead

Danilo Kiš, a Balkan Jorge Luis Borges, traded in superstition and arcana.

The Book of Disquiet

Mystical, erudite, sad, self-effacing, wise — Fernando Pessoa's "confession" is all those things.

Cosmos

For Polish novelist Witold Gombrowicz, the universe counts dead cats and onanism.

On Such A Full Sea

In a clear warning about Chinese ambitions, novelist Chang-Rae Lee turns to future shock.

Silence Once Begun

Underrated Jesse Ball again enters territory few American novelists venture into.

The Great Fire

For Shirley Hazzard, mid-20th century fires raged both in both world and heart.

Break it Down

Lydia Davis' early stories demonstrate an uncanny gift for "real-time" subversion.




BOOK REVIEW
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
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