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Parsimony Paperback – October 1, 2017
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With eloquent language worthy of literary recognition, Peter Nash's Parsimony offers wisdom fraught with interpersonal and political conflicts. David Ansky narrates. He recalls his childhood, which he spent listening to his father scoff at the Red Scare and watching his mother ignore the obvious love of her suicidal friend. David's father, Jacob, is a Russian history scholar who feels disillusioned with American life. He is bothered by the influence of ideology on society. In the context of the Vietnam and Korean wars and the civil rights movement, his Jewish family struggles to find their place in the cultural puzzle. Nash writes beautifully. Each sentence is imbued with poetic talent. David's understanding of how his parents lives influenced his own unfurls as he analyzes the details of their complex relationships with each other and the world. David's ruminations also illuminate his emotional development, especially as he deals with an aging father who easily bursts into tears and who forgets his granddaughter's name. David is still hurt by Jacob s distance during his childhood a distance that his mother attributed to Jacob s upbringing. Now, when David considers his ex-wife, so tenacious in her will to wring the most out of every day, his true character, as well as his family's influence on his emotional intelligence, crystallizes. As his past and present lives coalesce, David's daughter resents him for the divorce; his mother, long-dead, advises him, a cigarette between her fingers, from his memories; recollections of family friends exert influence and David realizes the catharsis of sending his father to a nursing home. While it is thoroughly imagined in its historical context, Parsimony is at its core the story of a family. There may be years of drama quietly hanging on the fringes of relationships and paranoid behaviors beyond comprehension, but family shapes us, through and through. Parsimony exposes this truth with effortlessly elegant prose and characters who linger in the memory. --Aimee Jodoin, Foreword Reviews (starred review)
A dutiful son helps his increasingly demented father make his last life transition, into a nursing home, despite their uneasy relationship. European in feel, Nash's novel unspools nonchronological layers of memory, spreading out from a single day, as David Ansky assists his irascible father, Jacob, who recently assaulted his maid, move from his Florida apartment to a care facility. Jacob himself the son of Joseph Ansky, professional Communist, imperious foreign editor for the Daily Worker is a retired Russian history professor who taught at Cornell and wrote a book on Trotsky. While, in the here and now, David sorts Jacob s belongings, sooths his rants, and gentles him along the last lap of a none-too-happy life, filaments of the past unfurl and connect, offering glimpses of David's childhood; his failed marriage; his choice of career, in part a repudiation of his father's dry academia and barren politics. There s a Sebald-ian flavor to this melancholy web of recollections, regrets, vignettes, infidelities, and mood moments, colored with intellectual and historical detail and some archaic vocabulary oppugning, sesquipedalian, impetrates. And, occasionally, the story switches point of view from David's resigned practicality to Jacob s cacophony of sights, smells, and flickering thoughts. Nash's composed tapestry of a family is delicate and poetic, although it accrues meaning more from the accumulation of episodes than penetration of character. There s a late squall of melodramatic confrontation When I look at you now...all I can do is weep. I didn't want to end up like you but the concluding mood is sweetly generous in its acknowledgement of generational love and loss. Nash treads deftly into archetypal territory. --Kirkus
About the Author
Peter Nash is the author of a biography called The Life and Times of Moses Jacob Ezekiel: American Sculptor, Arcadian Knight. He has recently completed a novel called The Perfection of Things about a failed American biographer of the Austrian-Jewish author and suicide, Stefan Zweig. He has published poems and stories in Desideratum, Berkeley Poetry Review, The Avalon Literary Review, and The Minetta Review. In 2012, he co-founded and now writes a bi-weekly post for a literary blog called Talented Reader. He lives in New Mexico with his wife and two sons.
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