Monday, February 21, 2011


Anyone seeking an introduction to the work of Harold Brodkey should probably leap right into the story "Innocence" from Stories in an Almost Classical Mode and not bother with his debut collection, First Love and Other Sorrows, published in 1958 and seriously dated today. There's not much to be said about the stories in First Love save that they're Fifties New Yorker stories and typical of that breed, less interesting than Salinger and much safer than Cheever at his risky best. Brodkey was in his twenties and still searching for his voice when he wrote these works. There are a few brief flashes of the writer who will emerge in the Classical Mode stories, but for the most part these are unexceptional works, apprentice Brodkey. Get a copy of Classical Mode and check out "Innocence" if you want to read a writer who can pull off sentences like "To see her in sunlight was to see Marxism die." (I'm still not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds wonderful. In a subsequent sentence, Brodkey attempts an explication, but he only shows us that he doesn't really know what it means either--a fact that, curiously, takes nothing away from the brilliance of the sentence.)

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