Pushing 60 and the limits of sardonic self-denigration, Henry Nagel, only child of adored Ekaterina, aristocratic Russian Jew, and lower-class Izzy, an upholsterer and fire eater, comically obsessing over his bachelor life as a loner and loser, increasingly experiences intimations of mortality: Wordsworth, meet Kingsley Amis. Invoking recollections and inventing conversations with dead Manchester relatives and childhood friends, he tries to understand how a past smothered in love and Yiddishkeit, has turned him into a defensive, sacrificial animal, a bored seducer of older married women, and the most unpublished literary intellectual in a department of a provincial university gone whole-hog (and wildly funny) feminist. Jacobson, an award-winning British novelist and humorist, crafts, at turns, a hilarious and heart-warming tale of belatedly growing up that is as much a satiric take on the times as a surprising love story involving a sympathetic shiksa and a neighbor’s dog. “Taugetz,” as Henry’s father would say; whatever, so it goes. And it goes well indeed.
The Making of Henry
Joan Baum is a professor of English at The City University of New York and writes regularly on scholarly and popular topics for various publications.
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