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The Deadwood Beetle Paperback – Bargain Price, September 3, 2002

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Paperback, Bargain Price, September 3, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This European-flavored novel Dressler's second, after The Medusa Tree tells, in a taut and occasionally elliptical first-person voice, the story of entomologist Tristan Martens, who has devoted his adult life to the study of beetles, the "janitors" who diligently clean up the planet's waste. An atheist, he is estranged from his only child, a troubled boy who grows up to be a gun-stockpiling member of the radical religious right, who accepts his father's Christmas checks but won't let him see his grandson. Divorced, and recently retired from a New York City university, Martens is settling into a life of isolation, despite the efforts of his last graduate student, the exuberant and enthusiastic Elida Hernandez. Then, in an antique store, he stumbles across the blackened pine sewing table that once belonged to his mother. On it is written, in childish handwriting, a Dutch inscription meaning "When the Jews are gone, we will be the next ones." To the owner of the store, the elegant Cora Lasher Lowenstein, this is a "child's warning," as "clear and honest" as the famous one made during World War II by Pastor Niem”ller. To Martens, however, the statement is both ambiguous and dangerous. The table is not for sale, but as Martens embarks on a campaign to persuade Cora to remove it from display, he finds himself on a journey into his childhood during the Nazi occupation. Along the way, Martens begins to learn how to deal with the detritus of personal and political life, which human beings cannot dispose of as cleanly and neatly as beetles dispose of organic leftovers. European world-weariness mingles with American optimism in this accomplished novel, dense with the scrap material of the past. Brilliance Audio.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

While ultimately a tale of Holocaust guilt, Dressler's second novel (after The Medusa Tree) focuses on an aging Dutch immigrant to New York, a retired professor of entomology whose father was a Nazi collaborator and sister a suicide. By chance, Tristan Martens comes across his mother's sewing table in an antique store, recognizing it because of an ambiguous, possibly anti-Semitic quotation he scratched into the underside. This encounter with his past leads to a friendship with the store's owner, whose Jewish husband lies in a vegetative state in a nursing home. Love blossoms slowly between them until, miraculously, the husband awakens from his coma a seeming vengeance against the guilt-ridden professor and the potential of love is snapped. Throughout, Martens's former graduate student helps him to maintain some intellectual enthusiasm with her exciting discoveries of a new beetle behavior discoveries that relate metaphorically to the story itself. Mostly a character study (the slim plot is not an aesthetic device), Dressler's earnest and finely crafted work has all the necessary pieces but as a whole lacks verve. Nevertheless, it is a worthy addition to the burgeoning field of literature of the Holocaust. Harold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib. of New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0425187608
  • ASIN: B000F5FNOI
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,197,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mylene Dressler is the critically acclaimed author of novels, novellas, and essays. She is a professor of writing and literature at Guilford College.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This wise and gorgeously wrought novel had me by the heart from its first sentence. Tristan Martens, a retired entomologist in his seventies, has discovered by accident the blackened pine sewing table once owned by his mother in the Nazi occupied Netherlands. As he recognizes it in the New York antique shop - "this ghost, this small, lost thing, floating like a piece of impossible wreckage toward me" - he knows he must possess it to keep its secret from the world. The owner Cora Lowenstein, who has misinterpreted the childlike scrawl on the table's underside, stands in his way. The table is not for sale. And so Tristan begins to scheme in his careful but ultimately clumsy way to persuade her otherwise.
Dressler is a skilled novelist with a flair for language and storytelling. The voice of Tristan is so authentic and honest that I can't imagine any reader emerging from this tale without a deep affection for him. As he struggles with guilt, his grown and unyielding son, the stirrings of love, and his mortality, we come to understand that a seemingly simple life is not necessarily so. His last graduate student Elida periodically bursts into his apartment, urging him to leave his boxes of dead beetles to get out more, but we already know Tristan has done and seen more than she has (though Elida, too, has her demons.)
THE DEADWOOD BEETLE is one of those books that lingers in the imagination long after its reading. You won't regret a minute spent with this author and her extraordinary novel.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Laurel Doud on November 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Deadwood Beetle is a beautifully written work. There are so many things to love about it, but I was truly impressed with the pacing of the story. The opening story is linear, but Dressler interweaves stories from the past that aren't told chronologically. A less-skilled writer would either not attempt this at all or bungle it badly. Dressler does neither. The stories float, intermingled, above the linear tale but there is no confusion. It works and works wonderfully. I have read The Deadwood Beetle, listened to it on tape with my Books-On-Tape bookclub, and bought it in large print for my father. An unequivocal recommendation!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John P. Rooney on March 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
"The Deadwood Beetle" by Mylene Dressler, G. K. Hall & Co., 2001, Large Type Book.
At first, this book appears to be about a little Dutch boy who survived the Holocaust, and, years later spies his mother's sewing table in an antiques store. The store owner, Cora Lowenstein, translates the child's inscription, on the bottom of the table, without knowing that it was Tristan Martens, himself, who carved it there years ago. Her version in English is "When the Jews are gone, we will be the next ones", which she interprets as in the same fashion as the famous quote from Pastor Niemoeller, (1892-1984).
It seems, however, that was not the meaning of the carved words: Tristan Martens (who now had to be in his late sixties or early seventies) knew it was from his Dutch father, who was a Nazi. Tristan was not a victim of the holocaust; instead, his family was waiting for their turn in power, after the Jews were gone. Angry Dutch citizens had looted his mother's table from their Dutch home when The Netherlands was liberated. He feels guilty for most of his life. This central theme of guilt is always a background plot as Tristan begins to see Cora Lowenstein in a romantic light. The guilt theme is intertwined, somewhat, with entomology, as he deals with his last graduate student, who, in turn, is dealing with a unique form of insect out in Arizona. Tristan Martens tells the student's parents how he happened to be an immigrant (as they were) and some of the story of his life directly after the World War.
Except for flashbacks to his life in The Netherlands, the book is set mainly in winter-time New York City, with some trips to a nursing home in nearby Connecticut. I think that the author, Dressler, has done a good job in capturing the flavor of subways and travel in New York. She has written an intriguing book.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Roger Paulding on October 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am not a reader of mainstream novels, but from the moment I opened this book, I could not put it down. Dressler grabs your heart and mind and weaves her delicate but tense story in such a manner that you will find it difficult to find a place to stop without reading it straight through. Readers of Nicholas Sparks will positively love this story. Poor old Tristan Martens, a retired entomologist [and the metaphors about the beetles are just stunning] discovers in an antique shop in New York his mother's sewing table, but an even more startling discovery for him is the owner of the shop, the elegant beautiful Cora who immediately steals his heart. But how to buy the table, which she tells him is not for sale! So he is torn between being honest and trying to devise a method of buying the table so she will think he is doing her a favor. At the same time, he does not want to say or do anything dishonest, that might destroy his chance at the distant hope of Cora's love.
Buy this book immediately! Every moment you delay, you are cheating yourself of a fantastic experience!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary Reinert on September 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a simple story portraying very complex emotions. I wouldn't describe this as a story that I "couldn't put down" but rather one that I would "go back to" because it is one that stays in your heart. The writing style is truly fine-tuned and the flashbacks into the past are so well done.

The explanation of the line carved in the bottom of the sewing desk "When the Jews are gone, we will be the next ones", is so well done. Things are never as they seem.

This is a wonderful example of how each of us cannot escape our history, but we have choices: we either have to let it overcome us or come to terms with it.
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