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Savage Shorthand: The Life and Death of Isaac Babel 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0679643067
ISBN-10: 0679643060
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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This portrait of Babel by the prolific Charyn (The Green Lantern, etc.) is confounding for reasons he himself elaborates on: it's difficult to know much for certain about the life of the great Russian Jewish short-story writer (1894–1940), whom Charyn emphasizes was a self-mythologizer. Charyn begins the book by seeming to appropriate Babel's qualities for himself by describing how an editor said Charyn's first book called Babel's writings to mind. Ellipses at the end of paragraphs to indicate uncertainty in the narrative underscore the lack of hard facts; using the word "some" as a modifier, as in "Mandelstam would die in some transit camp," has the effect of lessening the horror being described. Babel's death at Stalin's hand remains legendary for the reported sighting of the writer that followed his murder, but Charyn gets so caught up in such myths that he forgets to give us the man. "Even as he bares himself, it's hard to figure Babel out," Charyn notes. So perhaps one would do best to read Babel himself; his collected works have been reissued by Norton.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The Complete Works of Isaac Babel (2001), replete with commentary by Cynthia Ozick and Babel's daughter, Nathalie, enables readers to experience the full power of this intrepid Russian Jewish writer's revolutionary writings. Now Charyn, a versatile and prolific writer intensely interested in the Soviet regime, the subject of his last novel, The Green Lantern (2004), presents a vigorous response to Babel's indelible work, especially his bold stories about the Odessa gangster-king Benya Krik and the now-classic Red Cavalry, along with a meticulous inquiry into Babel's life. Bringing unusual energy and tough lyricism to the art of interpretation, Charyn explicates Babel's "savage shorthand," his way of writing about the surreal horrors of war, linking his work to that of Hemingway and photographer Diane Arbus. He also exposes the many contradictions embedded in the mythos that surrounds Babel, most generated by Babel himself for good reasons, and discloses the bitter truth about Babel's long-concealed murder by Stalin's henchmen. Not unlike Janet Malcolm's Reading Chekhov (2001), this is a zestful and revelatory appreciation of a great and courageous writer. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (October 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679643060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679643067
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #956,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Charyn has written a novel rather than a biography and as a novel it reads very well.
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