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At 72, Ducovny (author of 10 nonfiction books, including David Ben Gurion; playwright; journalist; and father of X-Files star David) debuts as a novelist with a coming-of-age memoir set in the seedy underworld of Coney Island in the late 1930s. Fifteen-year-old Harry Catzker learns to think about life through Brooklyn-accented, imaginative Platonic dialogues with his family's Polish boarder, Yiddish poet Aba Stolz. The teenager also becomes familiar with life's seamier pursuits riding his bike along Coney Island's tawdry midway, befriending the local sideshow freaks and observing the dog pack that patrols the boardwalk. A midget named Woody, owner of a bike rental and repair shop, introduces Harry to Luna Park's illegal trades. Woody starts Harry off as a small-time bagman, but soon involves him in the biggest arson scam in Coney Island history. The pervasive atmosphere of sleaze and fraud also draws in Harry's father, Moishe, a Yiddish journalist whose serialized novels engage a loyal audience of Orthodox Jews, and Harry's mother, Velia, a Polish refugee with secrets of her own. Even the intellectual Aba falls victim to blackmail and worse. Ducovny captures the range of New York immigrant experiences: Aba's trips to Harlem jazz clubs contrasts with the stubborn ethnicity of Harry's grandmother, Bama, who came to America in 1919, never learned English, and returns to the old country a widow on the eve of WWII. Characters like the wheelchair-bound crime boss Vic Menter, cruising in his 1939 black chauffeur-driven Packard, counterpoint nostalgic scenes of Aba, recalling the crime he committed in Poland or giving a poetry reading. Most of all, however, there's the specter of the European genocide taking place at the same time as these Coney Island adventures, shedding a somber shadow on this colorful, compassionate story. Agent, Andrew Blauner. 30,000 first printing.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.