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The Bacon Fancier: Four Tales Hardcover – June 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews Review

Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Francis Bacon all figure prominently in the four novellas that are Alan Isler's The Bacon Fancier. In the title story, an 18th-century Jewish violinmaker fancies both the philosopher and the breakfast meat of that name, his taste for the unkosher spilling over into his private affairs as well. Jews are at the center of all four of Isler's tales; in the first, the author retells Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Here Shylock is neither the venal, bloodthirsty Jew of Shakespeare's play, nor some 20th-century revisionist martyr; rather, he is a crusty, belligerent old man who goes looking for reasons to wrangle with the gentiles and considers his famous court case against the Christian merchant a highpoint for the ghetto. In "The Crossing," a wealthy young Jew meets Oscar Wilde on an ocean liner and finds both are shunned for different reasons. The final tale, "The Affair," takes readers to Broadway, where a young actor finds his research for a book on the infamous Dreyfus affair turned into a lurid musical.

These four intelligent stories filled with sex, theft, betrayal, and memory are concerned with a minority's struggle to retain identity in the face of the majority's disapproval. Filled with multifaceted characters and complex themes, Alan Isler's The Bacon Fancier serves up its provocative fare well-done.

From Library Journal

The four exquisite novellas that make up this collection have a common theme: Jewish experiences in the gentile world as seen in four successive centuries. Mostrino, the village fool in Venice's ancient Jewish ghetto, is protected within the ghetto's boundaries in "The Monster," a golem story of Jewish folklore. His death, narrated by a Shylock figure who also relates the story of his own sad life, is especially poignant. In "The Bacon Fancier," set in an English village, the one-eyed Cardosa, a master violin maker from an observant Jewish family, takes in a waif who becomes his lifelong love but whom he may not marry. "The Crossing" and "The Affair" continue the rich storytelling, blending warmth and melancholy. Isler (The Prince of West End Avenue, LJ 4/1/94) effectively blends comedy and tragedy in these well-honed tales, which are replete with classical allusions. Highly recommended for all collections.?Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, Md.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st American ed edition (June 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670874078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670874071
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,199,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Avid Reader on November 22, 2014
Format: Paperback
There are some good points and some weak points in the individual stories and the entire collection. On the whole, I liked it more as I went through it, so that's a good sign. But the stories are a bit too precious for my taste, and they also are unnecessarily raunchy in parts --- a problem I've noticed with current playwrights, too, who throw in obscenities or sex details that don't add to the feelings being expressed or the plot.

Anyway, each of the stories looks a Jews living in unassimilated but not dangerous circumstances, such as Venice a few centuries ago or England in the 19th century. This is not to say that all was easy, as one person loses an eye when sailors try to conscript him into the British navy. But being Jewish doesn't leave them vulnerable to a pogrom, either.

The stories allegedly are funny, but I didn't see it for the most part. Certainly, the main characters weren't very funny, except in the interior-monologue kind of way. Several titles have stupid puns or allusions, such as "Bacon Fancier" means both that the Jewish man doesn't keep kosher but that his favorite author is Sir Francis Bacon. Ha ha. "The Monster" is basically the story of Shakespeare's Shylock, from Shylock's perspective. "The Affair" shows menus on a luxury steamship...who cares?

But they do illuminate little parts of Jewish life, such as their role as money lenders, or their life as outsiders (the Jewish violin maker who lives with, but never marries, a waif-like Catholic girl).
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Airday on June 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Isler's Clerical Errors is beyond good; the Bacon Fancier is a disappointment. Maybe the author was compelled to sell his rough sketches. A mistake. Maybe it wasn't meant to be published but the author was hard up.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately not as goos as The Prince of West End Avenue.
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