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Savage Shorthand: The Life and Death of Isaac Babel 1st Edition

1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0679643067
ISBN-10: 0679643060
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This portrait of Babel by the prolific Charyn (The Green Lantern, etc.) is confounding for reasons he himself elaborates on: it's difficult to know much for certain about the life of the great Russian Jewish short-story writer (1894–1940), whom Charyn emphasizes was a self-mythologizer. Charyn begins the book by seeming to appropriate Babel's qualities for himself by describing how an editor said Charyn's first book called Babel's writings to mind. Ellipses at the end of paragraphs to indicate uncertainty in the narrative underscore the lack of hard facts; using the word "some" as a modifier, as in "Mandelstam would die in some transit camp," has the effect of lessening the horror being described. Babel's death at Stalin's hand remains legendary for the reported sighting of the writer that followed his murder, but Charyn gets so caught up in such myths that he forgets to give us the man. "Even as he bares himself, it's hard to figure Babel out," Charyn notes. So perhaps one would do best to read Babel himself; his collected works have been reissued by Norton.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The Complete Works of Isaac Babel (2001), replete with commentary by Cynthia Ozick and Babel's daughter, Nathalie, enables readers to experience the full power of this intrepid Russian Jewish writer's revolutionary writings. Now Charyn, a versatile and prolific writer intensely interested in the Soviet regime, the subject of his last novel, The Green Lantern (2004), presents a vigorous response to Babel's indelible work, especially his bold stories about the Odessa gangster-king Benya Krik and the now-classic Red Cavalry, along with a meticulous inquiry into Babel's life. Bringing unusual energy and tough lyricism to the art of interpretation, Charyn explicates Babel's "savage shorthand," his way of writing about the surreal horrors of war, linking his work to that of Hemingway and photographer Diane Arbus. He also exposes the many contradictions embedded in the mythos that surrounds Babel, most generated by Babel himself for good reasons, and discloses the bitter truth about Babel's long-concealed murder by Stalin's henchmen. Not unlike Janet Malcolm's Reading Chekhov (2001), this is a zestful and revelatory appreciation of a great and courageous writer. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (October 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679643060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679643067
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,173,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jerome Charyn, master of lyrical farce and literary ventriloquism, published his first novel in 1964. He's the author of Johnny One-Eye, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, I Am Abraham, and dozens of other acclaimed novels as well as nonfiction works. His short stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Paris Review, American Scholar, Epoch, Narrative and Ellery Queen.

Charyn's popular crime novels, featuring homicide detective Isaac Sidel, inspired a new animated drama series. 'Hard Apple' debuts on the small screen early next year, helmed by Hollywood insider James Gray (The Immigrants) and illustrated by famed artists Asaf and Tomer Hanuka (Waltz with Bashir.) Click on the teaser video below.

Now in bookstores: Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories. Bronx-born Charyn brings to life the pre- and post-Robert Moses world of New York's northernmost borough in thirteen bittersweet stories. *Nominated for Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and Kirkus Prize in Fiction.

Charyn lives in New York and Paris.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jacob Arnon on April 11, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Charyn has written a novel rather than a biography and as a novel it reads very well.
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