1967 -- A New Life

In a 1963 letter to his friend Rosemarie Beck, written while he was still planning his novel, Malamud said that he had originally wanted to do a book about Sacco and Vanzetti but had decided he could not match the power of the true story:

…so I settled for a combination of a blood ritual incident in pre-Soviet Russia, plus something like the Dreyfus incident. A man is put in prison, and there he must suffer out his existence with what he has and, in a sense, conceive himself again. It is, as you see, my old subject matter.

In a letter written at about the same time to his brother, Malamud confessed that his setting, pre-WWI Russia, was giving him problems: “You can imagine it takes a lot of nerve to write about a place as though one knew it. The result is that I often approach the writing with a kind of dread.” Biographer Philip Davis (Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life, 2007) tells us how Malamud got the title for his story of Yakov Bok, handyman:

When he was writing A New Life [his 1961 novel] in Oregon, Malamud had sometimes taken a room in the Frontier Hotel, on Second Street, Corvallis, where he could write all day undisturbed. There from a second-floor window he could see the sign of the local hardware shop of “Jim the Fixer.” It [his new novel] was to be the story not of some big-time operator who could fix everything, but an odd-job man who could mend or affect little.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.