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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncommon Stories about Growing Up, Love & Social Culture
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...
Published on May 21, 2004 by Erika Borsos

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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book ever published
Brodkey is dead and his book is still a loud obnoxious snore. It may be the worst book ever published. Who ever called this guy talented. Is it because he went to Harvard. There is not a sigle interesting story in the waste of newsprint. I could go on but Brodkey is dead and the book is a snore.
Published on August 23, 2012 by Boils


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncommon Stories about Growing Up, Love & Social Culture, May 21, 2004
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. He provides an interesting contrast of the viewpoints of working people and those who possess privilege, money, and therefore more power. This is a book rich with detailed observations about social distinctions and the human behavior that accompanies different positions in society. It provides a greater understanding of r life as it was lived within a particular cultural era. This book receives my highest recommendations. Erika Borsos (erikab93)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American literary landmark, June 6, 2000
By 
Bob Schwoch (Milwaukee, WI USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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
5.0 out of 5 stars This guy's got guts, October 20, 2006
By 
Lazyboy (San Francisco, USA) - See all my reviews
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
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute gem of a book, July 10, 2002
By 
This review is from: First Love and Other Sorrows (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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4.0 out of 5 stars highly recommend the first 160 pages, the last 4 pieces are nonessential..., August 6, 2014
By 
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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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Work of a True Craftsman, November 26, 1996
By 
Robert S Michaels "bobm" (Fairfield, CT United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: First Love and Other Sorrows (Paperback)
This collection visits several characters (a few of them recurring) as they struggle to create sufficient breathing room for their own clashing beliefs, those of both will and destiny, of loyalty to the needs of others and to those of an ever-shifting self. This journey toward satisfaction with personal choice is almost always a harrowing one for these protagonists, the emotional content of landscape and object often seemingly more potent than that which any one person could possibly conure. Especially good: the title story and "The Quarrel"
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4.0 out of 5 stars terrific...., January 4, 2014
Would like there have been more; more of each that is... Seems like even for the venerable short story these were cut short as if perhaps they were ideas for future novels, never materialized... Alas. Terrific writing & character development.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a moving chronicle of human relationships, June 1, 2003
By A Customer
Harold Brodky was one of the great writers of the last half of the twentieth century. This book is the proof.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, May 17, 2002
By 
Lynn Strong (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
Overall the book is ok. But, there are five or six stories that are so unbelievably good they more than make up for the mediocre ones and make this one of my favorite books of all time. Really, a phenomenal read.
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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book ever published, August 23, 2012
By 
Boils "Boils" (Denver, Colorado) - See all my reviews
Brodkey is dead and his book is still a loud obnoxious snore. It may be the worst book ever published. Who ever called this guy talented. Is it because he went to Harvard. There is not a sigle interesting story in the waste of newsprint. I could go on but Brodkey is dead and the book is a snore.
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First Love and Other Sorrows
First Love and Other Sorrows by Harold Brodkey (Paperback - September 12, 1988)
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