In 1950 Seymour Levin, a thirty year old professor, departed his native New York, where he indulged too freely in strong drink, for a fresh start in the Northwest where he had accepted a position at a state college. Settling in as a professor of English, he finds the college leans more toward the scientific than the creative and learns the former occupant of his office was a rabble rouser sacked for causing trouble. Yet the new environment is also freeing, the wide open spaces different from the tenements of New York. Gifted with a strong aptitude for getting into trouble, Levin indulges in a variety of mishaps, many of them with the opposite sex. The story is sprinkled with humor and is a great selection for our Month of Oregon. Malamud is writing from experience, at least as regards the setting, he taught at Oregon State in Corvallis from 1949 to 1961.— Deon Stonehouse
"An overlooked masterpiece. It may still be undervalued as Malamud's funniest and most embracing novel." --Jonathan Lethem
In A New Life, Bernard Malamud--generally thought of as a distinctly New York writer--took on the American myth of the West as a place of personal reinvention.
When Sy Levin, a high school teacher beset by alcohol and bad decisions, leaves the city for the Pacific Northwest to start over, it's no surprise that he conjures a vision of the extraordinary new life awaiting him there: "He imagined the pioneers in covered wagons entering this valley for the first time. Although he had lived little in nature Levin had always loved it, and the sense of having done the right thing in leaving New York was renewed in him." Soon after his arrival at Cascadia College, however, Levin realizes he has been taken in by a mirage. The failures pile up anew, and Levin, fired from his post, finds himself back where he started and little the wiser for it.
A New Life--as Jonathan Lethem's introduction makes clear--is Malamud at his best: with his belief in luck and new beginnings Sy Levin embodies the thwarted yearning for transcendence that is at the heart of all Malamud's work.
About the Author
Bernard Malamud (1914–86) wrote eight novels; he won the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for The Fixer, and the National Book Award for The Magic Barrel. Born in Brooklyn, he taught for many years at Bennington College in Vermont.
“Malamud has written a moving, funny, satiric third novel ... rich in ideas, paradox and the variety of human nature... Levin is one of the most appealingly, sadly, funnily human people in recent fiction and A New Life is a wonderful book.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“The special qualities of Bernard Malamud's fiction which set it apart as serious art ... are its evocation of genuine pity for the calamities which overtake men, its scrupulous and deft playing of an ironic attitude against this pity, and its insistently moral structuring of event.” —The New York Times