In each of us, there is a place that lies somewhere between pleasure and pain, and that’s the spot Bruce Jay Friedman aims for—his pithy, funny, dark tales show just how far astray a life can go as his quirky male protagonists find themselves in absurd situations created by their own disturbed and disturbing views of the world.
New York-based Friedman, whose screenplay for Splash (1984) received an Academy Award nomination, is a gifted short-story writer, novelist, playwright, memoirist, screenwriter, and the pioneer of dark Jewish humor in literature. He is at his best in this collection that features the story of a former filmmaker, now a lowly location scout on his first trip to Israel, who winds up engineering a young Israeli Arab’s escape to New York, only to see him land both a dream movie deal and the sexy, Yiddish-speaking woman whose affections he’d hoped to win for himself. In another tale, a writer silenced by the horrors of Nazi Germany is inspired to take up his pen again by an unlikely fan: Joseph Goebbels. Still another finely-crafted story tells of an academic from Detroit with “a distant wife, a rudderless daughter, shrinking income, and crumbling knees” who visits New York to take in an off-Broadway play and finds a stand in for his three deceased psychiatrists in an actor who plays the part to perfection on stage.
A master of his craft, Friedman takes aim at the foibles and frailties of the human male with penetrating wit to reveal the absurdity at the heart of life.
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