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Chilean Alejandro Zambra's stories move from fictional autobiography into handsome melancholy.
Alberto Moravia's tales of blue-collar Rome men in the postwar help explain neorealism.
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