New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1997
With an Introduction by Robert Giroux, The Complete Stories of Bernard Malamud is "an essential American book," Richard Stern declared in the Chicago Tribune when the collection was published in hardcover. His praise was echoed by other reviewers and by readers, who embraced the book as they might a displaced person in one of Malamud's stories, now returned to us, complete and fulfilled and recognized at last. The volume gathers together fifty-five stories, from "Armistice" (1940) to "Alma Redeemed" (1984), and including the immortal stories from The Magic Barrel and the vivid depictions of the unforgettable Fidelman. It is a varied and generous collection of great examples of the modern short story, which Malamud perfected, and an ideal introduction to the work of this great American writer.
From 1940 (when he published "Armistice," the story of a Brooklyn grocer's reaction to the fall of Paris) until the last of his experimental "fictive biographies," published in 1984, Malamud (The Natural; The Fixer; etc.) created hundreds of characters who were ordinary people involved in impossible situations. Malamud began as a dialect writer--one of the first to explain to the affluent, assimilated children and grandchildren of the second great wave of Jewish migration what they had left, or failed to leave, behind in the shtetls of Europe and New York. Himself the son of a late-night grocer, Malamud gave us what may be literature's first convenience stores; and, in his prose and dialogue, he captured with loving grace the dying rhythms and flourishes natural to Yiddish. In later stories, he came into his true subject, the cult of art under the pressures of late modernism: some of his best (and funniest) tales chronicle the Italian wanderings of Arthur Fidelman--failed painter, hopeless lover and mythically misadventurous schlemiel--as he bounces from city to city, getting kidnapped, buggered, robbed, killed, revived, seduced and, perpetually, haunted by the masterworks of the past. Like his humble hero, Malamud kept at his art, sometimes writing in step with the vanguard and at others spitting into the wind of fashion. As these 55 stories show, he was at every stage of his life an exciting storyteller--from sentence to sentence, even word to word. None of his many imitators has matched his instinct for the perfectly appropriate, if seemingly offhand, surprise. Already revered for his novels and a few anthology pieces, Malamud should win a new generation of readers with this wonderful, posthumous collection.