What distinguishes a New York novel are not just the streetscapes, but also the pull this great city has on its characters. The eponymous Florence Gordon is one of those fictional New Yorkers who believe that “a life that took place elsewhere couldn’t truly be called life.”
In a German concentration camp, the commandant and an officer of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the Nazis’ SS paramilitary unit, are discussing the “selection” of Jewish prisoners to live or die. “There was no selection. They were all certainties for the gas,” one Nazi tells the other.
The young David is captured in Michelangelo’s colossal marble masterpiece, in the days before his battle with Goliath. The sculptor expresses his beauty and hints of the boy’s majestic future. That’s the David a reader pictures in the opening pages of Rabbi David Wolpe’s new biography, “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press), when the High Priest Samuel visits the house of Jesse the Bethlehemite in search of a new king to replace Saul. Before meeting David, Samuel encounters his older brothers. David is then summoned back from the fields, where he is tending the sheep, and his life is about to change.
John J. Clayton’s short stories have been awarded the O. Henry and Best American Stories prizes; “Radiance” was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. The 10 stories in “Many Seconds into the Future” (Texas Tech University Press), deal almost exclusively with Jewish men, aging, longing, aspiring, regretting, remembering and searching. These are tales of fathers and sons, of brothers, of husbands. Women have names but little color.
This book had me hooked with the cover. Made to look like a journal, it features a cartoon drawing of a bespeckled middle-aged daughter on one end of a fading sofa, facing her parents, who are seated with their arms crossed. In a bubble above his head, the father asks, “Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?” That question is the title of Roz Chast’s memoir of her parents’ final years, and her role as their only child.