Three Balconies, Bruce Jay Friedman’s new collection, comprises of sixteen topsyturvy stories and one novella.
In the title story, Harry, the main character, tries to come to terms with the meaning of his womanizing. When he goes to Florida in anticipation of a script writing deal, thoughts of leaping off his condo balcony enter his mind. But as before in life, Harry cannot commit to anyone or anything, including his own demise.
“The Investigate Reporter” follows the bleak existence of Alexander Kahn, a failed novelist, fumbling through life. When Kahn gets a call to investigate a southern penitentiary, he finds prison “a clean, inviting place where proud prison chefs in great white hats stood beaming over vats of” fresh vegetables. Kahn is even more shocked when he finds his futile novel in the stacks of the prison library: “This is really something…I didn’t even know there were any copies in print. And to find it in prison,” foreshadowing Kahn’s ultimate realization that prison should be his new home, where his failed literary legacy will be truly appreciated.
In the short novella, “The Great Beau LeVyne,” upcoming playwright Cliff meets powerful Beau LeVyne, producer and socialite. Cliff ’s interactions with Beau’s infamous friends echo The Great Gatsby’s themes of lost innocence and hero worship linger just beneath the story’s surface. Cliff and Beau eventually part ways, with Beau ending in prison. They meet a final time, after his release, with the diminished Beau “aged dramatically… His eyes were watery and subdued as if he had undergone a religious conversion.”
Friedman’s stories are fractured tales full of failed writers, playwrights, and producers. His sharp language and ironic metaphors make them well worth reading.
Gary Katz received an MA in English from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He is the library administrator for the Kripke Jewish Federation Library in Omaha, Nebraska, one of the largest Judaica libraries in the United States.