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About Schmidt
Begley, Louis
Adult Fiction BEGLEY

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Both Auchincloss's sophisticated comedies of WASP manners and the terrain mapped in Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day come to mind as comparisons for Begley's new novel, but his discerning intellect and lapidary prose distinguish this powerful story of a man whose fall from grace has a double-edged irony. Albert Schmidt retired from his job in a white-shoe New York law office during his wife's terminal illness. In his 60s, he lives in her magnificent family home in the exclusive Long Island community of Bridgehampton, where he makes sardonic observations about those who betray his archaic values and rigid social standards. The most egregious traitor is his beautiful, brilliant (i.e., Harvard summa cum laude) daughter, Charlotte, whose decision to marry a blatantly ambitious Jewish lawyer is a bitter blow to Schmidt‘although he remains outwardly civil. Schmidt has no idea that his cool, remote behavior has alienated Charlotte, that she is aware of the veiled anti-Semitism he himself denies and that her new family, which Schmidt thinks vulgar, offers the warmth and human contact he has never provided. With sublime, delicious irony, Begley shows Schmidt's bizarre metamorphosis from a pillar of rectitude to a silly old fool; a Puerto Rican waitress younger than Charlotte is the instrument of Schmidt's descent down the primrose path. Taking advantage of Schmidt's loneliness, streetwise Carrie uses her sexual wiles to move herself and her drug-dealing boyfriend into his house and life. Begley guides the narrative with smooth aplomb and dry humor, providing a wealth of acutely observed social detail and a clear depiction of emotional dysfunction. Though his classic Holocaust novel, Wartime Lies, is a standard Begley can't improve upon, this elegant, sophisticated novel is another study in self-deception that confirms his reputation as a masterful literary novelist. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Once a highly successful lawyer of the old school, married to a topnotch book editor whom he loves deeply, Albert Schmidt is in the process of losing it all. His wife has died, he has left his firm early to cope with his loss, and his only daughter is now marrying a man whom he considers crass and grasping‘and who is, unaccountably, Jewish. Writing in fine form, Begley (As Max Saw It, LJ 4/1/96) achieves an extraordinary balance in this tart and stylish book. Perhaps Schmidtie was at times a distant father, an unfaithful husband, even a touch anti-Semitic (an issue which Jewish author Begley treats with great sensitivity)‘but he's still getting a rotten deal from his self-absorbed Yuppie daughter, who is quickly deserting him for her fiancé's family. "Since I am not dead yet I don't think you'll get Mom's and my silver just now," he responds to one thoughtless request, and he soon takes up with a young Puerto Rican waitress who is far more vibrant and devoted than his stuffy offspring. Making us side with the flawed and prickly Schmidt is no mean feat, and Begley is to be commended. Having successfully portrayed outsiders in his previous works, he has taken on the consummate insider and treated him with grace and understanding. Essential.‘Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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