Picks and Pans Review: Invisible Mending

updated 06/04/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/04/1984 01:00AM

by Frederick Busch

Busch, author of nine books, including Rounds and Take This Man, and one of America's most rewarding writers, sets this novel in a locale made familiar by Philip Roth and other New York writers. It is the interior world of a suffering Jew, in this case a writer and publisher, Zimmer, who loves his gentile wife and adores their withdrawn, puzzling son. Where Roth's prose is lean and funny, Busch's style, like his marvelous characters, is full of remarkable twists, and the language is pointedly cluttered, reflecting the messy, confused life of his subject. When Zimmer's wife throws him out, he has an affair with a Jewish woman who is convinced that a blind man who visits the library where she works is a former Nazi in hiding. She insists that Zimmer must help her in tracking the man. Zimmer, who was not raised as a Jew (his family had a Christmas tree at home), thought that he had come to terms with his Jewishness while in college at a small Lutheran school in Pennsylvania. But his new mistress shows him that Jewishness is a kind of obsession, providing an intensity that can add a special thrill to life. Despite the seriousness of the themes in this book, many of its details are hilarious. It's the kind of humor that can provoke one to insist on reading the comic passage out loud. As for sex, Busch's hero is on a roller coaster of freshly invented observations. "Sex," Zimmer sums up at one point, "is what makes everyone miserable, and sex is that behavior which co-exists with death, flight, fugitive lusts and the tempered reproach of a loving mother who had to destroy your mind in order to convince you that being dirty is bad for you." (Godine, $14.95)

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