Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Jerome Charyn - Jerzy - Review & Giveaway
About the Book
Jerzy Kosinski was a great enigma of post-World War II literature. When he exploded onto the American literary scene in 1965 with his best-selling novel The Painted Bird, he was revered as a Holocaust survivor and refugee from the world hidden behind the Soviet Iron Curtain. He won major literary awards, befriended actor Peter Sellers (who appeared in the screen adaptation of his novel Being There), and was a guest on talk shows and at the Oscars. But soon the facade began to crack, and behind the public persona emerged a ruthless social climber, sexual libertine, and pathological liar who may have plagiarized his greatest works.
Jerome Charyn lends his unmistakable style to this most American story of personal disintegration, told through the voices of multiple narrators—a homicidal actor, a dominatrix, and Joseph Stalin’s daughter—who each provide insights into the shifting facets of Kosinski’s personality. The story unfolds like a Russian nesting doll, eventually revealing the lost child beneath layers of trauma, while touching on the nature of authenticity, the atrocities of WWII, the allure of sadomasochism, and the fickleness of celebrity.
What would a Russian dictator's daughter think of living in America? It's an apt question both in our time and in the post-World War II setting of this novel, when Josef Stalin's pride and joy, his dear Lana, seeks refuge in New York City. Everyone knows who she is, she can't hide. Yet the infamy that surrounds her family doesn't seem to bother her. When she's gawked at from the moment she enters the illustrious Rainbow Room, she readily admits afterward that she loved every second of it.
Fame is a fickle thing, especially when you're known not for something you did, but for your last name. Lana laughs when good-hearted people in Nebraska and Kansas write to her, offering to adopt her. Yet the only person in America she experiences some sense of kinship with is the "supposedly" exiled Polish writer, Jerzy Kosinski. After seeing his wild eyes on a book jacket, she knew that she'd found her soul mate.
The two of them never become romantically involved, but they sure act like a squabbling couple. Lana's father was notorious for playing mind games with her, kind to her one minute, and cruel the next. Stalin's bipolar behavior is what Lana's accustomed to in a man. So when she says about Jerzy, "It was my misfortune in America that Jurek revived this addiction and made it worse. I was drawn to him and his maddening games." It doesn't bode well for the two of them.
Since they're both, in essence, Stalin's children. Jerzy admits that he could never relate to American heroes like Patton or Eisenhower because the Russians were the ones who saved his skin from the Germans. However, replacing one oppressive regime with another doesn't seem to bring any source of relief, even though that's what he wholeheartedly believes, illustrating the way that he thinks. No one is going to change him.
Lana recognizes this quality in him. She knows that beneath his calm demeanor, he's screaming inside, and she knows why. At any moment, the Kremlin could snatch her off the streets and send her back to the motherland. While Jerzy is convinced that the Polish secret police are out to get him. They're both paranoid, walking a tightrope they willingly stretch between them.
Recognizing the dark side in each other, they are, in fact, children of war. They hate what they've become, yet they can't stay away from it, either. As Lana adds, "His love was shot through with hate. He clawed at my weaknesses while he held my hand."
Some soul mate.
Jerzy can be purchased at:
Barnes and Noble
Bellevue Literary Press
Prices/Formats: $16.99 ebook, $16.99 paperback
Genre: Historical, Jewish
Release: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
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CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from Jerzy.
About the Author
Jerome Charyn is the author of more than fifty works of fiction and nonfiction, including A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century, Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories, I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War, and The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel. Among other honors, he has been longlisted for the PEN Award for Biography, honored as a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, named a Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture, and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York.
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