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First Love and Other Sorrows: Stories Paperback – October 15, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (October 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805060103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805060102
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 4.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

A staff writer for The New Yorker since the early 1950s, Harold Brodkey died in 1996. He was the author of two novels, including The Runaway Soul (Owl Books, 0-8050-5503-7), three short-story collections, and a memoir, This Wild Darkness (Owl Books, 0-8050-5511-8),  My Venice (Metropolitan, 0-8050-4833-2), and The World is the Home of Love and Death.

More About the Author

Harold Brodkey (1930-1996) was born Aaron Roy Weintrub into a Midwestern Jewish family. Both of his parents were recent immigrants from Russia, and after the death of his mother when he was not yet two years old, he was adopted by the Brodkeys, who were cousins on his father's side. After graduating from Harvard in 1952, he moved to New York and came to prominence as a writer in the early 1950s, publishing collections such as Stories in an Almost Classical Mode and novels including Profane Friendship. Widely acknowledged as a modern master of short fiction, and the winner of two PEN/O. Henry Awards, Brodkey contributed regularly to the New Yorker and other publications. A long-time resident of New York City, Brodkey was married to novelist Ellen Schwamm. He announced in 1993 that he had contracted AIDS, and he died of complications from the virus in 1996.

Customer Reviews

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This book receives my highest recommendations.
Erika Borsos
The stories are told with finesse and rare magical writing and are told in layers and layers of emotional complexity.
Jim Trimbell
This is a landmark collection, a truly great piece of literature.
Bob Schwoch

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Erika Borsos VINE VOICE on May 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book of short stories provides a rare glimpse and unique cultural viewpoint of growing up in a mid-western working class environment in the late 1940s and early 1950s. ESsentially, the family lived an affluent lifestyle until his father made a few bad business decisions, lost their home, and later died from a lingering illness. The observations and insights Brodkey provides are priceless. He contrasts his position to that of a wealthy friend, whom he met at an Ivy League school and whose viewpoint and values reflect a totally different approach to life. He describes his mother's aspirations for his sister, whose *only* chances for a "better life", i.e., achieving social and economic advantages, was by dating the right class of boyfriend, as she was expected to marry into a higher social class. The "Quarrel" is a story about his visit to France with a very wealthy friend and their adventures and "fall out", when their social, cultural and viewpoints about life clash, resulting in a quarrel with wounded feelings that can never be repaired.
One of my favorite stories is "Sentimental Education" where a male student sees a pretty young lady at the college he attends and longs to meet and date her. He occasionally sees her at different locations but is too shy to speak to her. He daydreams about meeting her as he falls head over heels in love. He discovers she signed up for a Medieval poetry class, so he changes his choice and signs up for the same class. Eventually they meet and discuss literature. The heart of this story is the strong physical and emotional needs that accompnay this "first love' experience. Brodkey is a tremendously gifted author who provides keen and sensitive insights into life as it was lived in the 1950s.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bob Schwoch on June 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I saw this book had never been reviewed or rated on Amazon, I felt obligated to correct the situation. This is a landmark collection, a truly great piece of literature. Written at mid-century, these wrenching coming-of-age stories still feel as fresh as any fiction being published today; I believe they've weathered more gracefully than John Cheever's stories have, and that's saying something. Brodkey's later collection, "Stories in an Almost Classical Mode," is more widely available these days for some reason. This is a better book and your best choice for an introduction to the work of this astounding writer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lazyboy on October 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
He writes like nobody else. His stories contain moments that are so beautifully personal and intimate that they left me amazed and full of admiration. He captures youthful shame, compassion and indifference in a more direct an honest way than any writer I have read. His work is uneven, and there are parts that are an effort to get through, but when he gets it right he reminds me why I love literature, and how thrilling it is to be shown a person's truthful, inner life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jim Trimbell on July 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is just wonderful. The stories are told with finesse and rare magical writing and are told in layers and layers of emotional complexity. This is a fine example of the writing of a brilliant man who was lost to AIDS in the mid-80's. A highly recommended read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I had never heard of Brodkey until I caught Richard Ford (an author I'm a huge fan of) reading one of his stories ("The State of Grace") for the New Yorker podcast. Ford had great things to say about Brodkey and when I came across an old Vintage Contemporary paperback copy I snatched it up—and I'm glad I did.

This book started out wonderfully, and Brodkey's seemingly autobiographical stories were brilliant in their honesty and sincerity, especially "The State of Grace", "First Love and Other Sorrows", and "Sentimental Education". In these, Brodkey draws on a few recurring themes throughout: financial status and happiness; intellect and isolation; vanity; self-pity; rebellion against what others feel one "ought" to do; etc. All this creates very compelling main characters that I cant help but feel are all (intentionally) poorly disguised versions of Brodkey, himself—not that that's a bad thing here. If the book ended after the first four stories, it would be 5 stars in my opinion, easily.

The last 70 pages or so depict, in a series of vignettes, a character named Laura and her family. For me, this structure didn't work too well. Another reviewer somewhere made a similar remark, which may have influenced my opinion, but I find myself in agreement. They just didn't captivate me the way the earlier stories in this collection did—they seemed unpolished, hasty, and merely tacked on to flesh out the length of this collection (which wouldn't be a big deal if the first four stories didn't share such a common thread). In the end, I just didn't really care. Maybe these scenes represent an aspect of Brodkey's life that I'm unfamiliar with and therefore may have missed something that would've made me appreciate them more.

Final word: highly recommend the first 160 pages, the last 4 pieces are nonessential...
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