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The Love Song of A. Jerome Minkoff: And Other Stories Hardcover – June 14, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Epstein (Fabulous Small Jews) delivers a faulty collection of 14 relentlessly similar, uninspired tales. Mostly about Chicago Jews—particularly male intellectual Chicago Jews—these stories meditate on the perceived faults of others while trumpeting the achievements of the narrators (Yale and comfortable tenure appear more than once). This restrictive formula grows old fast, as do the dismissive and stereotypical treatment secondary characters get: an Irish-American who reeks of beer, a feminist who talks exclusively about herself and the difficulty of her adolescent menstrual cycles, and Mexican teenagers who walked by in baggy jeans low on the hips, unlaced gym shoes, and baseball caps worn backwards. While this could be read as humor, stock characters don't leave much room for introspection, development, or nuance. The contrived prose and characters reveal Epstein, a successful nonfiction writer, to be out of his element. (June)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Epstein writes nonfiction of stinging clarity, thrust, and wit, while his fiction tends to be at once funny, tender, and trenchant. But in his newest short story collection, Epstein is at his skewering best, audaciously combining his incisive take on Jewish life in Chicago with acerbic views of academia and, most arrestingly, the writing life. The title's nod to T. S. Eliot's “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a tip-off, even though the story itself, a knockout, is about a doctor who lost his beloved wife and is now being aggressively courted by an extremely wealthy widow. Further piquant inquiries into what truly matters in life follow as Epstein's skeptical characters weigh art and money, integrity and fame, love and ambition. He considers the arrogance and sacrifice of writers in stories of spiky complexity and outrageous satire, including “My Brother Eli,” which chronicles the shenanigans of a Saul Bellowesque figure, and “Beyond the Pale,” a tale of an elderly Yiddish writer, his tenacious wife, and a young, railroaded translator. As cutting as his stories of the literary world are, Epstein is also a master at capturing the happenstance of urban life and at dramatizing the bewildering fact that we understand so little about each other. Perfectly executed, bold, and unforgettable. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618721959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618721955
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JOSEPH EPSTEIN is the author of the best-selling Snobbery and of Friendship, as well as the short story collections The Goldin Boys and Fabulous Small Jews, among other books, and was formerly editor of the American Scholar. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, and other magazines.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Love Song of A Jerome Minkoff" is Joseph Epstein's third book of short stories. He has written books of essays as well as other works. I had read - and thoroughly enjoyed - Epstein's first two books of short stories and eagerly chose "Love Song" from the latest Vine list.

I am not a great fan of short stories. I generally like longer works of fiction, but lately I've come to realise that the writing of good short stories is probably far more difficult than writing a novel. With short stories, the author doesn't have the latitude to endlessly express himself. What he writes must be - by definition - short and to the point. Characters have to be drawn carefully and plots are often jettisoned to make way for character development.

Epstein is a master at character development. This book, consisting of fourteen short stories, begins and ends with stories about older men, widowers, who are given second chances at love and fulfillment. All of his stories are set in Chicago - with some action in California, New York, and Washington DC - and all are about men of a certain age. The age that it appears Epstein is now. All the characters are Jewish, and most raised on the North Side of Chicago, the Chicago of Senn, Sullivan, and Mather High Schools, and now living in either the northern suburbs or the Gold Coast. Most of the stories are written in the first person. All the stories are interesting, all of them. There's not a clunker or loser in the bunch. Each could have been easily expanded into novel length, but all tell their stories in the pages allotted.

These stories tell of a generation of men, mostly coming from immigrant families and coming of age after WW2.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Fourteen gems of the storyteller's craft, each in its own way a variation on one theme: an aging man confronts mortality, the end of his existence growing closer, the regrets and disappointments of a lifetime. Whatever he may have achieved, however well he may have lived, it wasn't enough. He won't be long remembered. Sometimes the old man is the protagonist in the story, sometimes a character the narrator has encountered, or with whom he had a strange, disconcerting, or even hostile relationship.

And yet...variations on a theme though they may be...these are exquisite stories, each one a joy to read. Author Joseph Epstein writes beautifully, drawing you in to each story. Like tales told by a beloved uncle the writing is easy, conversational, homey, laced with Jewish humor. Sometimes the author seems to make gentle fun of himself when he writes about writers and their various forms of angst. Always, though, what comes through is a kind of warm compassion for the human condition.

I think you might have to be of a certain age to really appreciate these exquisite stories, but then again, maybe not. Maybe you'll just have to read them again when you're a little older. I loved this little book and I recommend it highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I first came across Epstein's writings when he was editor of The American Scholar and published lapidary essays -as funny as they were enlightening--under the nom de plume Aristophanes. Then in 2007, I reviewed two of his books, Friendship and his short biography and assessment of Tocqueville for a journal. Friendship knocked my socks off -again, wise and funny in equal parts, the funny accenting the serious. The Tocqueville book was also good but outshadowed by Hugh Brogan's much larger and more substantial Alexis de Tocqueville (which I also reviewed). I ordered Snobbery from Amazon -read it and liked it but not as much as Friendship. Still good but enough of Epstein for me for the moment.

Love Song is the first book of fiction by Epstein that I've read and it is excellent. He shows the same strengths in his fiction as in his non-fiction essays: a dry sense of humor that approaches but never spills over into outright whimsy; sage and skeptical comments about the oftentimes odd, even irrational behavior of that uncommon animal called the human being; the gift of telling a story; and last, and best, a deep affection for his fellow beings, even in the moments when they irritate him most. In short, Epstein is as exceptional a short story writer as he is an essayist. He, wisely I believe, sticks to a subject he knows at first hand: the comings and goings of middle and upper class Jews, mostly of Epstein's age or near it, in his home town, Chicago. The reviewer in Publisher's Weekly found this formula "restrictive." I didn't, but it is true that all of these stories are about the same tribe, pretty much about people of the same age, and people who act, think, and feel pretty much the same way. Still, I found these miniatures affecting and a great deal of fun to read.
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Format: Paperback
I can't figure out why people are raving about these stories. They're not beautifully written, and they don't contain deep thoughts or fabulous plot twists. They're just stories about people who've had professional and financial success, but then at some point from age 50 to 80 find that something is missing. In some stories, they find what's missing and are invigorated. In other stories, they don't find it. In yet others, they find it, but decide not to pursue it. All very true to life, but not told in especially interesting ways here.

I found the stories about aging to be the most poignant, particularly "Kuperman Awaits Ecstasy" and "The Philosopher and the Checkout Girl." Those deal with men who have been afraid to take a chance and meet dynamic women late in their lives. I guess we all feel all hope that will happen, regardless of whether we've had happy relationships or unsuccessful ones in the past.

On the other hand, the stories about academics and their life in academia are uninteresting. That ground has been covered by all too many writers, usually with much greater comic or satiric effect. A lot of the stories have a dollop of wisdom, but it's obvious wisdom and dispensed with a heavy hand. "Danny Montoya" is a good example, in which high school classmates meet by accident after nearly 50 years, and one tries to convince the other that he had greatness in his grasp and that greatness is all that matters, while the other says that being a good person and living a good life is more important than greatness. It's sort of the same ground trod in "My Brother Eli," a tale about a world-famous novelist and world-class jerk that's told by his brother who was merely a successful merchant and good father.

Overall, can't recommend these stories unless you are endlessly fascinated by your Jewish heritage or by living in Chicago.
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