The volume gathers together fifty-five stories, from "Armistice" (1940) to "Alma Redeemed" (1984), and including the immortal stories from The Magic Barrel and the vivid depictions of the unforgettable Fidelman. It is a varied and generous collection of great examples of the modern short story, which Malamud perfected, and an ideal introduction to the work of this great American writer.
"New Lesson: Audible Is NOT for Short Stories"
Bernard Malamud's second novel, originally published in 1957, is the story of Morris Bober, a grocer in postwar Brooklyn, who "wants better" for himself and his family. First two robbers appear and hold him up; then things take a turn for the better when broken-nosed Frank Alpine becomes his assistant. But there are complications: Frank, whose reaction to Jews is ambivalent, falls in love with Helen Bober; at the same time he begins to steal from the store.
When Sy Levin, a high school teacher beset by alcohol and bad decisions, leaves the city for the Pacific Northwest to start over, it's no surprise that he conjures a vision of the extraordinary new life awaiting him there: "He imagined the pioneers in covered wagons entering this valley for the first time. Although he had lived little in nature Levin had always loved it, and the sense of having done the right thing in leaving New York was renewed in him."
Prize-winning biographer William Dubin learns from lives, or thinks he does - those he writes, those he shares, the life he lives. Now in his later middle age, he seeks his own secret self, and the obsession of biography is supplanted by the obsession of love - love for a woman half is age, who has sought an understanding of her life through his books. Dubin's Lives is a rich, subtle book, as well as a moving tale of love and marriage.
God's Grace, Bernard Malamud's last novel, is a modern-day dystopian fantasy, set in a time after a thermonuclear war prompts a second flood - a radical departure from Malamud's previous fiction. The novel's protagonist is paleolosist Calvin Cohn, who had been attending to his work at the bottom of the ocean when the Devastation struck, and who alone survived. This rabbi's son finds himself shipwrecked with an experimental chimpanzee capable of speech, to whom he gives the name Buz.
In The Tenants (1971), Bernard Malamud brought his unerring sense of modern urban life to bear on the conflict between blacks and Jews then inflaming his native Brooklyn. The sole tenant in a rundown tenement, Henry Lesser is struggling to finish a novel, but his solitary pursuit of the sublime grows complicated when Willie Spearmint, a black writer ambivalent toward Jews, moves into the building.
Nelson Algren reading from The Man With the Golden Arm, James Jones reading from The Thin Red Line, John Updike reading “Lifeguard” from Pigeon Feathers and Other, Bernard Malamud reading from “The Mourners” from The Magic Barrre.
In Bernard Malamud’s short story "The Mourners", two old Jews, a landlord and tenant battling over a cheap apartment, are transformed from arch-enemies into companions in grief, as their common sorrows suddenly transcend their bitter antagonism.