A New Life: A Novel (FSG Classics)
A New Life: A Novel (FSG Classics)
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"An overlooked masterpiece. It may still be undervalued as Malamud's funniest and most embracing novel." --Jonathan Lethem
In A New Life, Bernard Malamud--generally thought of as a distinctly New York writer--took on the American myth of the West as a place of personal reinvention.
When Sy Levin, a high school teacher beset by alcohol and bad decisions, leaves the city for the Pacific Northwest to start over, it's no surprise that he conjures a vision of the extraordinary new life awaiting him there: "He imagined the pioneers in covered wagons entering this valley for the first time. Although he had lived little in nature Levin had always loved it, and the sense of having done the right thing in leaving New York was renewed in him." Soon after his arrival at Cascadia College, however, Levin realizes he has been taken in by a mirage. The failures pile up anew, and Levin, fired from his post, finds himself back where he started and little the wiser for it.
A New Life--as Jonathan Lethem's introduction makes clear--is Malamud at his best: with his belief in luck and new beginnings Sy Levin embodies the thwarted yearning for transcendence that is at the heart of all Malamud's work.
sign of her favor as he droned on about her writing, his thoughts in the wild wind. Two minutes later she thanked him for his criticism and left with a happy smile, not the vaguest sign of a blush on her, although Levin glowed as with high fever. He had noticed her more than once, a slim girl with short dark-brown hair, pretty, with greenish eyes, mature face, and shapely figure. Although her lower lip was thin and she used eyebrow pencil a bit smearily, she had a way with clothes. Whereas the
him. “I’d only hurt you without doing any good.” “Sure hurts anyway,” the man said. He tossed the pliers into the tool box and climbed up on his high seat. The tractor rattled down the hill. “God bless your tooth,” Levin called after him. Failed again, he thought. He started the Hudson and stepped on the gas. “Nadalee, I’m coming.” It was almost six. I’ve got to make time. He sped along the mountain road, wondering why it was so dark, then hurriedly switched on his lights, gasping as the
pages, and the instructor had one hundred and fourteen students, including Grammar Z inmates, who had their own objective tests, made up by Avis. Levin hurriedly counted correct answers, making little red check marks down the margin of the page, later changing to economical dots. He totaled aloud, wrote the number of right answers at the bottom of the page and hastily flipped to the next sheet, once in a while taking a few seconds to work his fingers against cramp. He fidgeted and sweated when he
figure from the rear, so much better than he had noticed. The tight dress helped. Her shoulders, long waist and can were very good. Although a bit unsteady she walked with grace. Where were my eyes? Levin thought. “Don’t be surprised if I fall,” said Pauline. “Let me help you.” Levin took her arm and led her to the wooden bench in the rock garden. They sat in the dark, tall trees behind them. “You look cold.” He offered his jacket. “I’ll get my coat.” “I’ll get it,” Levin said. “You stay
being attractive to someone, and it might awaken more of his desire for me. If that happened maybe I would respond. Do you think that could happen?” “I doubt it,” he said. “So do I,” said Pauline. He interpreted this to mean she wanted pleasure, solace, a momentary change, but no serious involvement with him. Her marriage, deficient as it seemed to him, apparently meant something to her. The situation suited him. If it made their relationship seem less consequential than it might be, on