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Jerzy: A Novel Paperback – March 14, 2017
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Praise for Jerzy: A Novel
New York Times "Editors' Choice" selection
Literary Hub"Indie Press Book We're Looking Forward To" selection
Big Other "Most Anticipated Small Press Book" selection
"A moving attempt to trace the connections between Kosinski's wartime struggles and postwar fictions." ―New Yorker
"Jerzy is a novel with a light touch that's still capable of lifting heavy subjects. Charyn knows what he wants to do and knows how to do it. . . . [He] show[s] that all forms of power are pretty much alike, or at least connected―Hollywood, Capitol Hill, Kensington Palace, the Kremlin. Because Kosinski is a figure who proves (if we still need to learn it) that the craziness of American life may have more in common with the craziness of Russia and Europe than we like to think." ―New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
"A stark, engrossing novel about the rise and fall of celebrated author Jerzy Kozinski whose life was deeply affected by World War II, the Holocaust, the Soviet Union, literary awards, fame and by the film, Being There, that he wrote and that starred Peter Sellers." ―Stay Thirsty Magazine
"Daringly imaginative and profoundly insightful." ―Booklist (starred review)
"The rise and fall of novelist Jerzy Kosinski (1933-1991) emerges in an offbeat way . . . through Charyn's resourceful imagination and always-colorful, punchy, provocative prose." ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Charyn peels back the layers of myth and artifice built up by chameleon-like Polish-American novelist Jerzy Kosinski. . . . [His] clever novel underscores the sense that Kosinski was a man impossible to nail down, given to wild changes in personality and appearance depending on his own wealth, desires, and mood. Through triangulating voices and stories, Charyn manages to get close to the truth, and does so with beautiful, spare prose." ―Publishers Weekly
Select Praise for Jerome Charyn
"Jerome Charyn is one of the most important writers in American literature." ―Michael Chabon
"One of our finest writers. . . . Whatever milieu [Charyn] chooses to inhabit, . . . his sentences are pure vernacular music, his voice unmistakable." ―Jonathan Lethem
"Charyn, like Nabokov, is that most fiendish sort of writer―so seductive as to beg imitation, so singular as to make imitation impossible." ―Tom Bissell
"Among Charyn's writerly gifts is a dazzling energy―a highly inflected rapid-fire prose that pulls us along like a pony cart over rough terrain.. . . . [He is] an exuberant chronicler of the mythos of American life." ―Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books
"One of our most intriguing fiction writers." ―O, The Oprah Magazine
"Charyn skillfully breathes life into historical icons." ―New Yorker
"Both a serious writer and an immensely approachable one, always witty and readable and . . . interesting." ―Washington Post
"Absolutely unique among American writers." ―Los Angeles Times
"A contemporary American Balzac." ―Newsday
About the Author
Jerome Charyn is the author of more than fifty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Jerzy: A Novel; A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century; Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories; I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War; and The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel. Among other honors, he has been longlisted for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, was named a Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture, and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York.
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His book on the Roaring Twenties in New York was so fantastically written and delightful I used it in my Roaring Twenties classroom at the University of Vermont and the students thought it the best book of the seven they had to read that semester...
with his made up
Connections. What a bore.
A fictitious biographical tale about such an intriguing man, Jerome Charyn tells the story of Jerzy Kosinski through a myriad of perspectives. Each perspective throws us deeper into Jerzy's life and the circumstances that surround his existence. This is a man who refused to sit on the sidelines while life passed him. He immersed himself in his hopes, his dreams, his desires, striving every day to overcome the uncertainties, the pain, and the heartache he experiences often.
We're given glimpses into the secrets Jerzy kept throughout his entire life. Language barriers often frustrated him, but he didn't let it deter him from climbing through the ranks. It was delightful to see him rub elbows with so many interesting characters. To also see him portrayed through the various perspectives used throughout the book allows us to envision the world he lives in, as well as who he truly is.
Jerzy never cared about the real truth that surrounded him and loved to keep people guessing. He'd do whatever he deemed necessary to get from point A to point B. Jerome shows us this with every turn of the page. Despite the fact that Jerzy was a ruthless, pathological liar who moved through the social circles that surrounded him, we also get to see his vulnerabilities. Mind you, this is a man who tried to hide those vulnerabilities whenever possible, often detesting the fact when his carefully constructed facade started to crumble. Nevertheless, he was able to make a name for himself, while always retaining a sense of mystery around him at all times.
Such a tumultuous story, Jerzy keeps the reader's attention from start to finish. The author's truly unique style of storytelling allows us to envision each character and the environments they find themselves. He truly does paint such vivid pictures! We can feel what the characters feel, and see what they see as they move forward throughout the lives they lead. I definitely recommend this book!
But like all those who try to pull off wearing different masks throughout life, Kosinski's eventually had to come off. When he's exposed as a fraud by The Village Voice, a quote from his childhood hits the nail squarely on the head, "I'm tired of chess. [My] whole existence has been a chess game."
Let's face it, his formative years growing up in German - then Russian - occupied Poland couldn't have been easy. He learned from a young age that to stay alive, "the best lies keep as close as possible to the truth." Humorously enough, he became "the village's Jewish altar boy." Yet it makes one understand his need for subterfuge.
However, the esteemed literary circles of Manhattan show him no mercy. He falls from the heights of grace becoming a social pariah among the elite and the powerful. No more talk show appearances. No more best sellers. In fact, it could be said that suicide was built into the very fabric of his work since he survived the war on his fierce will alone. One could conclude that his tragic demise was inevitable.
Is despondency Poland's national disease? Possibly. If as a child, Kosinski says, "I feel like I'm a hundred - when will I have time to be a boy?" And his parent replies, "When all our enemies are in the grave." It has to damage a person's psyche, and when it comes to Kosinski, the damage is beyond repair.
Ultimately, he turned into a creepy voyeur rather than a fully actualized person. He even admits it in the novel, when he says to someone, "I meant to say hello. But I was enjoying my little game too much - the pleasure of watching you."
On the whole, I found Jerzy the novel to be a sad tale of a man who was willing to do anything to live, yet didn't know how.