Lives of the Fathers: Stories (Illinois Short Fiction)

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9780252018152: Lives of the Fathers: Stories (Illinois Short Fiction)
From Kirkus Reviews:

Of these ten stories, another volume in the Illinois Short Fiction Series (see Burgin and Costello), two that dazzle concern sons who reach maturity through relationships with, or reminiscences of, their fathers; the rest either mark time or overreach. ``Madagascar'' (a Nelson Algren Award winner) is a marvelous reminiscence of a father's past as a Jew in Gestapo-controlled Amsterdam juxtaposed to the narrator's painful growth into adulthood. The story covers a lot of ground quickly through incisive instances. The other dazzler, the title story, wonderfully evokes a love that has lasted through the years. The narrator, after the death of his mother, helps his elderly father move. Together, they trace down a woman the old man barely knew long ago. When they find her, she's mostly senile, but the father brings her home anyway for a candlelit dinner and a heartrending summarizing image: ``He strokes her hair, then looks up at me and tells me with his eyes to mourn us all.'' Of the remaining pieces, the best include ``Summer Love,'' a Sixties-era saga about coming-of-age as a waiter at an aunt's hotel in the Catskills; ``Navajo Cafe,'' the story of a cross-country trek of a ten-year-old daughter and her father after the girl's mother dies, a journey that results in an accident as well as in some healing. ``Q 12081011,'' however, is a cluttered attempt to combine a tenth-grader, his gym class, his parents' divorce, the Holocaust, and cosmology as a metaphor for survival; ``Other Lives'' is a contrived surreal piece about a man whose car breaks down in a small New Mexican town; and ``Return With Us Now to Those Thrilling Days'' is a stale effort about a Sixties nostalgia party and a midlife crisis interrupted by a man in a gas mask with a knife. Schwartz is at his best when he forgoes cutesiness or needless complexity for honest fictional reminiscence. Some of these first appeared in Antioch, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Literary Review. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

The deftly ironic title of this current winner of the Illinois Short Fiction series evokes the acts of holy patriarchs, but eight of the 10 tales touch with economy, delicate precision and depth of feeling on aspects of a fleshly fatherhood that is fallible, guilt-ridden, heroic and loving. In the masterly title story, expectant parent Adam helps his aged, widowed father pack to move. But in a comically macabre delaying tactic, the father brings a woman home for the night, an old flame become bedizened invalid, while Adam's pregnant wife waits and utters dire predictions from the wings. A painful trio--neurotic mother, penitent father, teenage son--appears in "Legacy": the boy is seduced by a rabid young patient in the pricey clinic to which his mother is committed, but a new bond between father and son caps the incident. An unloved catatonic mother also figures in "Q12081011" (a quasar that fascinates a bookish son), in which the boy holds his philandering, sporty father an emotional hostage. "Summer of Love" focuses on a disastrous acid trip shared by Ivan and Maida (recovering from her father's suicide) in a dying Catskills resort. Schwartz delineates with admirable and diverting finesse the timeless spectacle of parents and offspring locked in tenderly shattering combat.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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