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Bowl of Cherries Hardcover – October 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's; First Edition edition (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932416838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932416831
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,078,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Nonagenarian Kaufman-twice nominated for screenwriting Oscars in the 1950s and a cocreator of Mr. Magoo-makes his fiction debut with this irresistible comic novel, a bawdy, original coming-of-age tale. Kaufman brings bright, resourceful Judd Breslau to vivid life, giving him a striving nature that always leads to trouble. After dropping out of Yale at 14, Judd moves into the crumbling mansion of nut-job Egyptologist Phillips Chatterton, where he joins a phalanx of oddball thinkers working on a quixotic project to redesign human society. A fringe benefit is Chatterton's daughter, Valerie, over whom Judd goes ga-ga. Both Judd and Valerie end up in New York, where Judd interviews with a shady corporation seeking a revolting economic opportunity in war-torn Iraq. So it's off to the hilariously backwards Coproliabad, where Judd runs afoul of the new sheikh, who wants Valerie for his queen. In fact, Judd, awaiting execution, narrates the whole book from a fetid jail cell. Kaufman's screwball sensibility, relish for language, gleeful vulgarism and deep sympathy for his characters make this novel an unprecedented joyride. Whether it's due to his being alive for 90 years or not, Kaufman's book is shot through with worldly wit and a keen sense of the humor in human foibles. (Oct.)
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Review

“[Kaufman] is a wildly imaginative and funny writer…an ageless author who is ripe for a new audience.” —Los Angeles Times

“Equal parts Catcher in the Rye and Die Hard.” —The New Yorker

“Kaufman’s screwball sensibility, relish for language, gleeful vulgarism, and deep sympathy for his characters make this novel an unprecedented joyride.” —Publishers Weekly

“A smart, zany comedy . . . That weird incongruity between highbrow/lowbrow humor is only part of what makes Bowl of Cherries so irresistible. Kaufman's comic imagination, his ability to mix things scatological and historical, political and philosophical, reminds one of those young'uns Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. The ridiculous slapstick in Assama is straight from Woody Allen's Don't Drink the Water, and a cameo appearance by a goofy President Bush will take you back to Dr. Strangelove. But Kaufman seems to have more heart than those '60s satirists; his precocious young hero pulls on our sympathies even as he trudges on through absurdity.” —Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Kaufman doesn't disappoint, and his narrative is infused with . . . wisdom and whimsy . . . Kaufman exudes a vitality that novelists half his age would envy.” —Baltimore Magazine

“The ninety year old’s inquisitiveness and tenacity shine brightly within the novel, in which he weaves words more impressively than a spider spins a web.” —Rocky Mountain Chronicle

“Bowl of Cherries reads like a picaresque Kurt Vonnegut farce narrated by Augie March . . . The descriptions of Judd's troubled upbringing and the world of higher education are as gorgeously blooming as his carnal adventures are funny . . . a knowing satire of the American lust for recognition at any cost.” —Baltimore City Paper

“A freewheeling comedy that careens from a Colorado horse ranch to an Iraqi prison to a porn studio underneath the Brooklyn Bridge . . . Bowl of Cherries is the work of a writer unshackled, finally able to use vocabulary and structure verboten in Hollywood.” —Rolling Stone

“When you read Bowl of Cherries, you will know that this writer is a reader . . . the modus operandi of this book is to find a way to laugh at anything . . . I haven’t had this kind of fun in a long time.” —Michael Silverblatt, KCRW Bookworm

“Make no mistake, Bowl of Cherries is crass, offensive and overblown, but its portrait of a world driven mad by greed and hucksterism, miracle cures and imperialist agendas stumbles smack into its share of worthy targets.” —Jewish Daily Forward
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sean M. Mcveigh on September 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I don't think it's any coincedence that a 90-year old reminds me of Vonnegut, but this is a terrific book that a lot of my friends are getting from me for the holidays.

Very funny, very satiric, very good.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mary Carde on September 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Social satire in the grand tradition of Voltaire. Written with a vocabulary that has the precision of a surgeon's knife. A book for the cerebrating person.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By T. rick on September 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I had high hopes for this book, as I loved the book McSweeneys pushed hard this time last year, "The Children's Hospital" (Chris Adrian). They gave "Bowl of Cherries" the same sort of push at Book Expo America that "The Children's Hospital" received, even giving out thirty-odd page excerpts, which is how I first learned of the book. And if the McSeeneys folks are excited, I'm excited.

While "Bowl of Cherries" starts out strong and enjoyable, almost gleeful, at the half-way point it changes direction and really loses something. The likeable and interesting characters (our narrator, Judd, and his increasingly less believable love interest, Valerie) at the beginning of the story don't seem to grow, and the ending seems kind of false and needlessly drawn out.
That's not to say, though, that it's not a worthwhile read. Though not as prevalent through the second half, there are plenty of excellent turns of phrase and little insights and incidents throughout that'll make you smile.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joe Kenney on June 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've read this wonderful novel three times - first when it was published, again about half a year ago, and now this third time, and I've found that my enjoyment only increases with each reading. And sadly, it's with this latest reading that I've discovered Millard Kaufman passed away, on March 15, 2009, at 92 years of age. I was floored to read that he's survived by his wife...of 66 years! I mourn his passing, but still...that's one full life, so at least we can be assuaged by the fact that Kaufman left us a lot of great material. (Including a second novel, "Misadventure," which McSweeney's will publish in Fall of 2009. I've been unable to discover what this novel will be about, but you can be sure I'll be pre-ordering it.)

Reviews for this novel are split right down the middle here on Amazon, so I want to set the record straight: Bowl of Cherries is a novel for writers. This is a novel that shows what wonder still survives in the English language. In our increasingly dumbed-down vernacular, here is a book that boldly unleashes a host of ten-dollar words without even recoursing to explaining them; how refreshing it is to be in the hands of an author who trusts in the intelligence of his readers.

The novel's narrated by Judd Breslau, a 14 year-old prodigy who attends Yale, his focus of study an obscure Romantic poet. In the course of his research he meets Phillips Chatterton, a crackpot who operates a rundown house of fellow crackpots. After a series of misadventures, Judd's kicked out of Yale and ends up in Chatterton's rundown house. His main reason for being there is Valerie, Chatterton's gorgeous, 16 year-old daughter, whom Judd swoons for at length. ("All else is trumpery," as he puts it.
Read more ›
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Scotty Winsome on November 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
... not too sweet, and not too tart; but a delicious mouthful bursting with both. This novel reads as a fun, satirical frolic with plenty of unexpected twists. I found myself avidly enjoying each chapter like a ripe cherry on a late summer's eve. There is a plentitude of $5 words which can lead you off on fun tangents of exploration in your handy dictionary; or like I did, one can underline them and return like a squirrel to a nut for an autumn's eve of scholarly study. So it is that Kaufman indulges the reader with language that so very unfortunately is no longer enjoyed in these rat-race days of terse and abbreviated, instant-messaging intercourse. With such an eloquent use of vivid language, the lucid nonagenerian author dresses English in its Sunday best and parades it, as if to presage us, the younger readers, to rage, rage against the dying of the light and not allow our language to languish to the pathetic destitution of nothing more than mere pulp fiction and text messages. So, enjoy the show!

To have a little more fun and learn more about Kaufman (and even Mr. Magoo!), you can visit the NPR website and search for a bowl of cherries to find his Weekend Edition interview with Scott Simon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Randy O'Brien on November 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
I just finished this amazing comic novel and it's still reverberating in the back of my mind. Erudite, cosmopolitan and witty, if you loved Catch 22 or A Confederacy of Dunces, you will love this book!

Author of the new historical novel...
[ASIN:1934037397 Judge Fogg]]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael X. Ferraro on January 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
At times reading like T.C. Boyle's demented grandfather, or Kurt Vonnegut's bilious blood brother, Mr. Kaufman shows there is indeed a whole lot of life after Bad Day at Black Rock and Mr. Magoo. In "Bowl of Cherries," he has written an exuberant, world-weary, lecherous, political, poop-centric, howl-inducing, thought-provoking novel that does lose considerable steam after the first 100 or so pages, but still manages to pack more of a nonsensical, yet eerily-on-point punch than the work of satirists one third, or half, or any other fraction of his much-publicized age.
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