Love is Like Park Avenue

Alvin Levin; James Rei­del, ed.
  • Review
By – September 16, 2011

With a cov­er pho­to that evokes O’Hara/Fitzgerald, Park Avenue in the title, and an aban­doned car, a puz­zled book buy­er might think that Alvin Levin, Jew, was doing his own take on the rich. Wrong. This book deals with the angst-rid­den, Bronx-trapped, Yid­dish-inflect­ed, always-poor of the 1920 – 30’s. It is not one sto­ry, but sev­er­al — from frag­ments to novel­la. Pref­aced by John Ash­bery, and edit­ed by biog­ra­ph­er James Rei­del, who wrote the intro­duc­tion and drew Levin’s work togeth­er, Rei­del dealt with pub­lished mate­r­i­al as well as boxed man­u­scripts found after Levin’s death. Levin, 1914 – 1981, was also an attor­ney and pub­lish­er of util­i­tar­i­an pam­phlets. Bur­dened by life­long lame­ness (polio) which brought togeth­er his frus­tra­tion and tal­ent, it swamped the pos­si­bil­i­ty of life­long creativity. 

Char­ac­ters exist with chok­ing inten­si­ty, long­ing for com­forts and choic­es — Park Avenue” — lack­ing in lives of the unem­ployed and under­em­ployed in the Bronx. Most remark­able is his depic­tion of the anguish among young women, job­less, poor, depen­dent on fam­i­ly, or bereft. Levin’s grit­ty lan­guage and tone make Rei­del invoke Saroy­an, Miller, and Dos Passos. 

At age 30 or so, Levin stopped writ­ing, although his slen­der works had appeared in New Direc­tions antholo­gies and The New York­er. He cor­re­spond­ed with their edi­tors, James Laugh­lin IV and William Maxwell. Each praised, but urged that he write short sto­ries, not prose.” That did not happen. 

The trig­gers end­ing his pro­duc­tiv­i­ty are unknown; cer­tain­ly an inju­ri­ous traf­fic acci­dent must be fac­tored in. Our loss, as well as Levin’s. In 2010, Levin’s writ­ing is worth revis­it­ing. Illus­tra­tion, notes.

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

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