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Pictures of Fidelman (1969)
By Bernard Malamud
First edition, first printing
DESCRIPTION: Along with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud is considered one of the three most important Jewish-American writers of the 20th century; specifically, one of the ones who helped "normalize" the ins and outs of daily Jewish-American life to a mostly Gentile audience from a white European background, in the decades following the period when such people almost wiped them out completely, controversial among fellow Jews at the time but one of the people who led directly to Seinfeld, Yiddish terms becoming part of the general culture, and specialty ethnic aisles now existing at every single suburban grocery store. Although in recent years he's become most known for his early baseball novel The Natural (because of the insanely popular 1984 magical-realism movie version starring Robert Redford), Malamud won the rare dual Pulitzer and National Book Award for his 1967 The Fixer; and 1969's Pictures of Fidelman was the first book he put out after that feat, a collection of five themed stories, two of which appeared in previous books and others that premiered in "Partisan Review," "The Atlantic" and "Playboy." A sort of opposite premise of his famous 1957 The Assistant (in which an Italian moves to New York and ingratiates himself into the Jewish community), this is about a failed Jewish painter in the Bronx who moves to Italy during the height of the countercultural movement there, landing in a whole series of madcap, absurdist, and sometimes very naughty adventures. Called by some as Malamud at his most experimental, others as him at his funniest, and others as him at his worst, with an objective look perhaps you could argue all three at once; but of course it's important to remember as well that this came out the same year as Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run and Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, and that wacky, bawdy adventures concerning nebbishly sexy urban Jews in exotic locales were all the rage at the time. Almost fated to have been a disappointment upon its original release, because of coming right after the mind-blowing The Fixer that meant so much to so many people, as we approach its 50th anniversary perhaps it's time to reassess this silly yet grown-up sign of its times.
CONDITION: Text: Fine (F). Very similar to how it appeared new. Dust jacket: Very Good Plus (VG+). In great condition except for light yellowing along its edges and slight wrinkling on its spine edges; absolutely no tears or folds, original price not clipped. Not just a first edition but a stated first printing on the copyright page as well.
PROVENANCE: Purchased by Jason Pettus from Ravenswood Books, Chicago, on March 15, 2012.