I'm a big fan of Harold Robbins and usually enjoy most of his books. I was looking forward to reading this one, since it was a best seller, like most of his books. Robbins does a good job of getting inside his characters heads and letting us see how they grow. He does the same with Danny Fisher. Most of his books tend to be sort of epic, in that they go through many years. This one was great reading all the way through it. Up until the end. It seems Robbins is not happy unless his stories have a tragic ending. This disappointed me. Also, it seemed unfinished. That's why I deducted a star. But I have several other of his books I have yet to read. I can see why he was such a popular author.
“A Stone For Danny Fisher”, one of Robbins’ earlier novels, is also one of his best. It belongs to the earlier generation of books which actually has little sex in it and is more sentimental in its plotting and characterisations. As the third novel he wrote, it stamps Robbins once and for all as a masterful storyteller. The book moves along at a relentless pace, as we follow the triumphs and tragedies of Danny Fisher and his constant struggle to reclaim his lost childhood. Robbins’ prose is precise and effective, and remarkably lyrical in portraying the human condition. More so than in his later novels, the reader is taken deep inside the emotional life of key characters with the prologue and epilogue working well as book ends for the story. The ending is poignant and demonstrates just how powerful a storyteller Robbins is. Whilst he may not have the vocabulary or complex prose style of more sophisticated writers, he is highly effective in connecting with the reader and drawing him in to the lives of his characters with an intimacy and emotional depth which few writers can match. I challenge any reader to come away from “A Stone for Danny Fisher” unmoved by a novel that is both a tour de force of storytelling as well as an emotionally compelling cautionary tale. Robbins would go on to write other novels, more sparing in their pathos and explicit in their sexual escapades, but none would ever match the beating heart of this one.
In 1986 when I lived in Chicago I took a short story writing course with Asa Baber through Northwestern's night school. Baber was an author (Tranquility Base, Land of a Million Elephants) and wrote the "Men" column for Playboy. Around fifteen students, and every last mother one of them a miserable writer, including yours truly, to judge from my aggregate published output to date of nothing. One night one of the smarmy young pretend writers in the class was making a dismissive reference to Harold Robbins, comparing him unfavorably to -- I don't remember, some writerly ideal like Mailer or Updike or the like, accompanied by the nodding agreement of the class. I had never read a Harold Robbins novel, but I spoke up, probably rather more sharply than I should have, to note that Harold Robbins wrote books that attracted the attention of real editors and were read by millions of real readers, many of whom may not have had the elevated tastes of these kids, but who were not being fooled into reading something they didn't enjoy. That shut 'em up.
In the intervening two-and-a-half decades, I still hadn't read a Harold Robbins novel. I don't know how I came across A Stone for Danny Fisher, but I think I read somewhere that as Robbins's first novel (published in 1951), it had about it some of the grit and drive that may have dissipated somewhat in his later potboilers (The Betsy, Heat of Passion, The Carpetbaggers). I am very glad I picked it up.
The cover tells some of the story: A hot mid-twentieth-century chick with one of those great mid-twentieth-century hot-chick hairdos and really hot mid-twentieth-century hot-chick foundational undergarments, a fleabag room, and boxing. What's not to like?
The book has all these things, but quite a bit more. It is about a boy growing up in Brooklyn during the Depression. He suffers from economic deprivation, limited prospects, and the curse of anti-Semitism. He overcomes them to a point, but the logic of the life he has chosen soon drives him to become a very different kind of person. He struggles with the demands of his new life, which is in sharp contrast to the joy he takes in the woman he loves.
If you're thinking about picking this up, let me be clear about a couple of things. First, this is a story you've heard before. As you read, you will find yourself predicting what happens next, and you will frequently be correct. To adopt the boxing metaphor, Robbins telegraphs his punches.
Second, this is not sophisticated writing. It is sometimes childishly simple. Lots of adverbs. (Most good writers hate adverbs -- I almost said "unanimously" hate adverbs.) I'm flipping through the book right now, let's see . . . you'll find sentences like: "Slowly the beating of her heart quieted." "Her hand reached up wonderingly and touched her hair." "The dark rolled around me in gentle swirling clouds."
But -- and this must have been what I was sensing in 1986 -- there is something to hold your attention on every page. These simple and sometimes corny words tell the reader what is happening. They don't tell you how smart the author is, they don't surprise you with pointless plot devices, they just set forth the dramatic facts of the life of a young man the reader comes to care about. It's a story. Robbins doesn't apologize for it or dress it up. He just flat tells it.
Master Yoda told once: " Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.” "A stone for Danny Fisher" is a sad story how the boy through making mistakes decided that it is a world to blame. A sad novel how greed and poverty has turned a nice guy into a blind fool. And when the blindness has gone only sorrow has remained.
It is a sad story of all of us who try to find their ways in this strange world "for my numbers are legion" (c) Danny Fisher.
It is the life story about a Jewish individual named Danny Fisher. It takes place in New York, the Bronx, Manhattan etc. This book would bring memories back to people who lived in these areas of new york. The ref. to "A Stone" is the heart of this book and what it represents to the Jewish people.
I've now read this book a minimums of 25 times since a sophomore in college in 1962. Traditionally I would read it as the first book of summer reading at the beach. Each time I seam to come away with a different prospective on each of the main characters I guess depending on my mood at the time