Herald Brodkey

April 27th, 2006 by john

More than many/most/any of his contemporaries, Harold Brodkey chewed on his own biography until it turned into a dense, sugarless mass. And few/no one of his critics have looked at his process and the result as acutely as Jonathan Baskin in a recent issue of Bookforum:

Other moments from Brodkey’s childhood—Doris’s cancer, Joe’s infidelity—play out over and over in Stories in an Almost Classical Mode, as they do throughout Brodkey’s oeuvre. In “Largely an Oral History of My Mother,” a narrator named Alan briefly remembers going as a boy to buy a car with his dad. Brodkey later expanded the story to some sixty pages in “Car Buying,” adding, for instance, that the father stopped to see his mistress on the way to the dealership. The addition of such information reconfigures Brodkey’s previous appraisal of the situation; the reader of both stories can never be sure where the author stands in relation to his material. This was exactly how Brodkey wanted it. In his best stories, ultimate meaning remains finally, and intentionally, elusive. Brodkey always leaves open the possibility that more material may be added at a later date: “A story is a brighter substance when it isn’t finished,” he once wrote, “when it is still hints and guesses, a family matter like a child’s face.”

The rest is here.

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