A New Life by Bernard Malamud

By Bernard Malamud

"An neglected masterpiece. it will probably nonetheless be undervalued as Malamud's funniest and so much embracing novel." —Jonathan Lethem

In a brand new lifestyles, Bernard Malamud—generally regarded as a notably big apple writer—took at the American delusion of the West as a spot of non-public reinvention.

When Sy Levin, a highschool instructor beset via alcohol and undesirable judgements, leaves town for the Pacific Northwest to begin over, it's no shock that he conjures a imaginative and prescient of the extreme new lifestyles expecting him there: "He imagined the pioneers in coated wagons getting into this valley for the 1st time. even supposing he had lived little in nature Levin had continually enjoyed it, and the experience of getting performed definitely the right factor in leaving long island was once renewed in him." quickly after his arrival at Cascadia university, although, Levin realizes he has been taken in via a mirage. The disasters pile up anew, and Levin, fired from his publish, unearths himself again the place he all started and little the wiser for it.

A New Life—as Jonathan Lethem's advent makes clear—is Malamud at his top: along with his trust in success and new beginnings Sy Levin embodies the thwarted craving for transcendence that's on the middle of all Malamud's paintings.

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Sample text

You’d like her’ (Ch. 10, p. 60) he comments, reinforcing the sense of intimate association between narrator and reader, between Holden and ‘you’. Despite his usual negative assessment of the movies, Holden doesn’t disparage Phoebe’s fondness for the thriller The 39 Steps (1935) and, although Phoebe can be ‘a little too affectionate sometimes’ (Ch. 10, p. 61) – perhaps implying that she makes emotional demands 50 Jan Morris, Manhattan ’45, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 7. 24 TEXT AND CONTEXTS on him that he can’t fulfil – she ‘kills’ Holden, a phrase he uses often to express how amusing or charming he finds someone.

21, pp. 146–7) and Holden is preoccupied by memories of Allie and James, both dead. Another reference to death comes when Phoebe works out that Holden has been expelled from school: her reaction is to exclaim several times, ‘Daddy’ll kill you’ to which Holden responds three times, ‘Nobody’s gonna kill me’, perhaps implying that he will kill himself (Ch. 21, p. 149). ’ and he responds that he is ‘sick of everybody asking me that’ (Ch. 22, p. 151), which is interesting because only Mr Spencer seems to have asked him that question.

So, in this example, Holden’s digression allows us to see that he is not simply judgemental about those less fortunate than himself, but is uncomfortably aware of the tension created by inequalities in wealth and status. Holden feels guilty about the nuns because he is aware that they have chosen to live without the privileges he casually enjoys. However, the scene with them is also concerned with issues related to sex and gender: they are women who have chosen TEXT AND CONTEXTS 27 to live without sexual relationships with men in a society that is particularly focused on marriage, believing that a woman’s ‘natural’ place is in the home raising children.

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