Reviewed by Raquel Thorne
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2014)
Available for $9.93 on Amazon
The Critic, The Assistant Critic, and Victoria is written in both third person omniscient and first person narration. Lefkowitz’s protagonist Kunzman, The Assistant, is a meek, although astute, literary critic. It is only after his death that we meet The Critic, Lieberman, through the eyes and considerable musings of his overshadowed protégé. While at first there is hope that perhaps Kunzman, whose work was often “borrowed” by Lieberman, will begin to get some recognition of his own, it quickly becomes apparent that he will always remain in Lieberman’s hefty shadow. Shortly after Lieberman passes away, his widow Victoria, a woman who, “had she been a citizen of Troy… would have demanded that the Trojan Horse be put in her courtyard,” assumes the role of dominating Kunzman as her husband had in life.
Lefkowitz’s humor is wry and, his treatment of Lefkowitz when narrator, often tongue-in-cheek. No characters are without their flaws: Lieberman is overbearing and ethically questionable; Victoria is a self-centered vamp; and Kunzman has a penchant for incredibly impacted, complicated clause work—a trait which may annoy some readers, but will entertain others. Character development is wily executed, Kunzman himself noting, “I cannot even open a drawer, I thought, without literature intervening”—a sentiment mirrored by the third person narrator: “The reader needs no reminding of Kunzman’s tendency to quote from here and there and everywhere, and sometimes, it seems, the more obscure the quotation, the better.” Likewise, all voices involved deftly thumb their nose at Kunzman’s subordinate nature, both in love and in labor.
Smartly written, Lefkowitz’s novel displays a wide knowledge of literature, art, music, Yiddish, and precise language. Although my copy had a few typographical errors peppered throughout the manuscript, they were not overtly distracting, and I was surprised to find that The Critic, The Assistant Critic, and Victoria was a self-published novel. It is great work like Lefkowitz’s which proves it is not necessary to have a publishing house back an author for work to shine.
While The Critic, The Assistant Critic, and Victoria stops just short of being a true tour de force, its modest 260 pages make for an undoubtedly amusing read. A good pick for readers who like dry humor, particularly of the Jewish disposition, who revel in literary and art references, and who enjoy character development; not a good pick for readers who prefer fast plots or do no like dense reads.
The stories, poetry, and humor of Larry Lefkowitz have been widely published in journals, anthologies, and E-zines. In addition to the novel reviewed here, his book Laughing into the Fourth Dimension, 25 Humorous Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories is available from Amazon books.