Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16th: Benjamin Rosenblatt
A Month of Short Stories and Their Authors

now finished: Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford
and Men Against the Sea (The Bounty Trilogy #2)
by Charles Bernard Nordhoff and James Norman Hall

Today's selection is precisely the kind of short story I dislike.

Today's Story: "Zelig"
Author: Benjamin Rosenblatt
My Rating: B -

It just doesn't do it for me. I'm not familiar with Mr. Rosenblatt or his other work, and not particularly inspired to learn more, but let's see what a quick breeze through the interwebs can't rustle, next to nothing. Most of the top results are, in fact, about "Zelig" and specifically in connection with it being the first story in the very volume in which I just read it, The Best American Short Stories of the Century ed. by John Updike. So this is the 1915 piece that kicks off a collection of what I hope is a whole lot better work.

This is how I perceive it: immigrant blah blah New York blah blah poor blah blah family blah blah stoic blah blah --oh! warmhearted surprise!

Because of said warmhearted surprise and the fact that you get a good image of Mr Stoic Russian Jewish Immigrant, I'll give ol' Rosenblatt a B-. But does it have to be so painful to get there? We don't understand his motivations, we don't really understand much of anything that happens, other than life is hard, so let's make it try to suck less for the next generation. Frankly, that's not really a short story plot. I think this one was supposed to make our boy Zelig seem mysterious, but he just seems -- unknowable. Which is different. Also, the whole tough-love thing and the my-ends-justify-my-obnoxious-means thing are annoying.

It's short, though.

All in all: meh. Not so inspiring. This was the best 1915, had to offer?  Really, Updike??

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