Bernard Mala­mud: A Writer’s Life

Philip Davis
  • Review
By – March 5, 2012

From a mate­ri­al­ly and spir­i­tu­al­ly impov­er­ished child­hood in Brook­lyn, with the shad­ow of men­tal ill­ness dark­en­ing the lives of some of his clos­est rel­a­tives, Bernard Mala­mud earned a liv­ing as a teacher. Yet his truest and most pas­sion­ate expres­sion was in his writing. 

Philip Davis’s account of this major author, Bernard Mala­mud, traces the friend­ships, loves, lusts, and dis­ap­point­ments of Malamud’s life. Davis charts the rise and even­tu­al tri­umphs of the writer’s craft, as Mala­mud earned his place among the most impor­tant 20th cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can Jew­ish writ­ers. This win­dow on the inter­nal world that informed his work, includ­ing his mod­ern clas­sics The Fix­er, The Ten­ants, The Nat­ur­al (basis of the film) and the short sto­ry col­lec­tion The Mag­ic Bar­rel; illu­mi­nate the writer’s suc­cess in express­ing on the page that which mat­ters most…is cre­at­ed with the least pos­si­ble means.” 

Davis guides the read­er along the course of Malamud’s devel­op­ment as a fam­i­ly man, teacher, and writer, cit­ing from per­son­al cor­re­spon­dences and rec­ol­lec­tions of friends and col­leagues. The read­er sees “[T]he process of great­ness com­ing out of the ordinary…which is pre­cise­ly the pow­er of Malamud’s writ­ing itself.” In all, this is a high­ly read­able, infor­ma­tive, and enjoy­able vol­ume on an impor­tant lit­er­ary fig­ure. Index, notes.

Joseph A. Kanof­sky holds a Ph.D. in lit­er­a­ture, and rab­binic ordi­na­tion. He is an edu­ca­tion­al con­sul­tant to the UJA-Fed­er­a­tion of Greater Toronto.

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