On the twentieth anniversary of Bernard Malamud's death, Janna Malamud Smith explores her renowned father's life and literary legacy. Malamud was among the most brilliant novelists of his era, the author of the Pulitzer Prize winner The Fixer, as well as The Natural and The Assistant -- named one of the best "100 All-Time Novels" by Time. He counted among his friends Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Theodore Roethke, and Shirley Jackson. Yet Malamud was also very private. Only his family has had full access to his personal papers, including revealing letters and journals that offer unique insight into the man and his work. In her candid, evocative, and loving memoir, his daughter brings Malamud to vivid life as no one else can.
Bernard Malamud, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, grew up in Brooklyn in a home overshadowed by poverty and mental illness. Unable to earn a living in New York, he took a teaching position in Oregon and moved his young family there. For Janna, it was an idyllic time and place. Her father was warm, funny, and passionate about his writing, which was gaining national attention. In 1961, an appointment to Bennington College brought the Malamuds back east and right into the middle of the heady, often hilarious free-for-all that was campus life in that radically changing time. But Bennington's anything-goes atmosphere and Malamud's growing fame came at a price to his family: his deep belief that one should live morally crashed into his premise that one should live fully.
Janna Malamud Smith speaks as only a daughter can of a fraught relationship with an adored father. In glowing praise of My Father Is a Book, Susan Cheever -- who also wrote memorably of her own father, John Cheever -- says, "This loving portrait of a writer's family from the inside describes good times and difficulties with affection and candor and provides a fascinating backstory for Malamud's great fiction."