“Lost Books” is a weekly series highlighting forgotten books through the prism of Tablet Magazine’s and Nextbook.org’s archives. So blow the dust off the cover, and begin!
“Where have all Bernard Malamud’s readers gone?” asked Rachel Donadio upon the 2008 publication of the comprehensive biography, Bernard Malamud, A Writer’s Life. Born in Brooklyn in 1914, Malamud is best known for the 1984 film adaptation of his novel, The Natural, which starred Robert Redford. Donadio reflects on The Complete Stories of Bernard Malamud, a volume released 11 years after Malamud’s death, at the age of 72, in 1986:
Still, though Malamud may lack Bellow’s linguistic pyrotechnics and Roth’s raw aggression, he is as central as they are to late twentieth-century American literature. His prose—spare, at once self-consciously anachronistic and timeless, rich in undertones and cast in endless shades of brown and grey—is unlike anything else in the English language. To read Malamud is to enter a strange world of hallucinations and dreams, of birds as metaphors—for liberation and degradation, sexuality and soulfulness—and birds that talk. Sometimes it takes a few pages to realize you’re reading a dream sequence. Sometimes you never know for sure.
Read “Restoration Project” by Rachel Donadio
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.