From Publishers Weekly
A wry narrative voice subtly tempers the melancholy nature of Feld's (Only Shorter; Years Out) tender and intelligent novel. In a dark comedy that achieves a literary dimension, an unexpected film project brings together Joel Zwilling, a middle-aged, erstwhile literary wunderkind; Brian Horkow, a mercurial, hack movie producer; and Selva Tashjian, Brian's long-suffering production assistant. Joel, who has lived in Cincinnati since the tragic accidental deaths of his first wife and their daughter in the mid-'70s, is the author of Less Him, a precocious first novel about growing up as the child of Holocaust survivors. His only other successful project was a short story in which a newly widowed man is crippled by grief (the story appears as a prologue to this novel). Tragically, its publication coincided with the deaths of Joel's family, and Joel's guilt at imagining the tale has engendered a severe writer's block. Remarried, he teaches at a small college; his son, Nate, has left home for his own writing career in New York. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Brian receives a grant from a Holocaust Studies Foundation to make a film, and chooses Less Him. After convincing Joel and Nate to work with them, Brian and Selva invade Cincinnati in classic "on-location" pre-production style, where the private lives of all involved are knotted up into a thoroughly analyzed tangle. Judaism and religious faith are much discussed, but the real spiritual power in the novel is secular, and radiates from Selva, whose professional exterior and vast reserves of compassion mask her own traumas. Coping with the frenzied demands of her boss (who is haunted by his daughter's cystic fibrosis and a son's death, not to mention late-breaking news that the Holocaust Foundation is a fraud), a subtly evolving relationship with Joel and a fraught friendship with Joel's wife, Barbara, Selva struggles to keep herself and everyone around her afloat. An intricate and compelling character, Selva reads Montaigne, is resigned to a life of temporary relationships with married lovers, and takes what she can get and doesn't complain too loudly. In exploring these disparate, desperate lives, Feld sounds for emotional depth without losing sight of life's absurdities. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Joel Zwilling doesn't want to be a writer anymore. After his wife and daughter die in a car crash, he gives up a promising career as a novelist and moves to Cincinnati to quietly raise his son. Years later, when a desperate actor digs up Zwilling's first book and gets the money to make a movie of it, Zwilling's carefully rebuilt life begins to collapse. Forced to relive long-buried memories, he is suddenly made aware of the half-truths at the foundations of his marriage and his relationship with his son, Nate. Feld movingly portrays a man who feels that, in order to survive, he must deny his essence. When circumstances prod Zwilling into recognizing his true nature, he finally comes to terms with his loss and begins writing again. This is an intricate novel that strings together the perspectives of various people in Zwilling's life, including his wife, his son, and the actor who foists unwanted introspection on him, to illuminate the man's emotions with their understanding. Bonnie Johnston