Friday, May 12, 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.

My Review

Jerzy Kasinski was a bit of a head case.

In Jerome Charyn's colorful portrayal of the mid-20th century writer, we get a look at this tragic figure from many different angles. Peter Sellers. Lana Stalin. His mistresses. His ex-wife. His parents. And yet in the end, when the book circles back to his early childhood years in Nazi-occupied Poland, we still don't know who the guy is, not really.

Jerzy's claim to fame was the book, The Painted Bird. His name was on the cover, but as it turns out, a young woman, he picked up off the street, is the one who honed it to perfection with her little green pencil. This unknown girl knew how to work on instinct alone, something Jerzy was never able to do. He could think in chapters, in swaths of connected material, but he couldn't put it down on the page, never mind translate his thoughts into English. Charyn describes his futile attempt at writing as "chaotic, without a fine thread…the charm of his narration wasn't there."

Meaning Jerzy could BS with the best of them, but when it came to knowing how to fully capture his haunted voice in print, he was clueless. His audience was expecting a factual story of a Holocaust survivor. Instead, they got a book filled with pious little lies about himself. Charyn even labels Jerzy's duplicity as "the greatest disease of his life."

When he's found out, the critics decide to either ignore him or crucify him. Yet even as they mock him, Jerzy remains defiant. Charyn explains his response in this way, "All his gifts, all his talents, are tied up in mischief. His currency was pain - pain he inflicted on others and himself."

Jerzy's defense? That his father burnt it into him, that he couldn't have gotten through the war "without a million lies." But upon reaching the final page of Charyn's intriguing portrayal of him, the question still remains: Was it worth it?


Jerzy can be purchased at:
Barnes and Noble
Bellevue Literary Press

Prices/Formats: $16.99 ebook, $16.99 paperback
Genre: Historical, Jewish
Pages: 240
Release: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
ISBN: 9781942658146
Click to add to your Goodreads list.



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.

Links to connect with Jerome:
Web Site


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