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The Tenants Of Moonbloom (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 15 Nov 2003

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; New Ed edition (15 Nov. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170709
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170700
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 516,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Edward Lewis Wallant (1926-1962) won critical acclaim for his novels The Human Season and The Pawnbroker, which was made into the first American film to portray the inside of the Nazi death camps. After Wallant's untimely death, an annual award was created in his name to honor an outstanding work of fiction that "has significance for the American Jew."

Dave Eggers is the editor of McSweeney’s and the author of three books: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; You Shall Know Our Velocity, a novel; and Visitants, a collection of short stories. He lives in California.

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By A Customer on 13 Nov. 2005
Format: Paperback
I have not read such a poignant novel for a long while. It is very funny, written in a beautifully poised and readable style. Moonbloom is a detached person, a virgin unable to engage with the world around him, embodied by the weird assortment of humanity that are the tenants of his brother's grotty properties that he manages. His awakening and subsequent behaviour are both fascinating and hilarious. His deflowering had me on the floor laughing. I cannot believe that it is not more famous, perhaps it is too subtle a book. An absolute grade A zinger and a cracking good read.
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Format: Paperback
I am so pleased to see this brilliant classic re-released! The author, Edward Lewis Wallant, suffered greatly in the second world war, and yet seems to have survived that with even more sympathy and empathy for people, and a rare sensitivity to their individual circumstance, and suffering. Of all his books this is the one I found most wonderfully readable - it inspired me to seek out his rare other works, but for me none quite reach the magic delightfulness of Moonbloom (probably because they deal with the heavier, darker subjects only touched on in this one). He has a unique perspective he expresses clearly in a wonderfully literary and yet engaging style which is quite unlike anything else I've ever read.
Despite the strange characteristics of the tenants of the title, which Moonbloom has to placate by prioritising the building's many problems on a too-limited budget, they all immediately appear very human. Moonbloom himself is a socially inadept creature not really made for the real business world he has to survive in. His character is written with great depth, and without sentimental pity. The first few lines encapsulate the charm and delight of his style, so if you are considering buying this book I recommend you read them, and if you like them, buy it without any delay - you won't be disappointed!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8674f21c) out of 5 stars 15 reviews
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8677ad98) out of 5 stars lyrical, musical, surprisingly earthy 17 Feb. 2004
By Jesse Berrett - Published on
Format: Paperback
Wallant takes a fairly common premise--Norman Moonbloom works as an agent for his brother Irving's tenements, popping into and out of the tenants' lives to collect the rent--and makes it into an effective and moving vision of moral and social dislocation. There are elderly Holocaust survivors, stoned jazzbos, a young married couple, an od married couple, old cranks, a horny young Chinese-American guy, even a James Baldwin character, all of whom seem somehow marooned and desperate for Norman's attentions. Wallant presents each of them with grace and economy, sketching a vision of early-60s NYC that's somehow cheering despite the pervasive despair. By turns lyrical and earthy, this novel is wonderfully thought-provoking as an allegory (is Norman a Christ figure?) and equally enthralling as a minutely-noted tour through a vanished city.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8677adec) out of 5 stars A tour de force of how to overcome life's conditions 28 Nov. 2006
By T. M. Teale - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
NYRB Tenants of Moonbloom

I don't remember how I decided to buy a copy of The Tenants of Moonbloom--but it no longer matters. Perhaps because the main character Norman Moonbloom is a rent collector and agent for his brother Irwin's tenements, and two key characters are the superintendent and a plumber, I sensed that the Manhattan experience might shed some light on my parents' motel in Colorado. The back cover blurb of the novel says that, as Moonbloom collects the rent money, he hears the tenants' "cries of outrage and abuse[;] he learns about their secret sorrows and desires[.] And as he grows familiar with their stories, he finds that he is drawn . . . into a desperate attempt to improve their lives." In my parent's motel, as in the narrative of Moonbloom, no one is ever anonymous when rent is collected in person or repairs and renovations are made while the tenant is on the premises. Things aren't done so personally anymore, and as a result, with this novel of 1963, we get a peek into the past. However, nothing in this novel is like anything I've ever read. In retrospect, this novel is so unique and unclassifiable that none of the jacket blurbs or commentary can tell the reader exactly what it's about; truly, one must read the novel.

Norman on himself: "Oh me," he said shrugging. "I'm New York's most educated rent collector. I'm trying to make what I'm stuck with into a vocation" (48).

The Tenants of Moonbloom raises many questions for readers interested in the craft of writing. To me, New York City, and Manhattan in particular, have always represented cultural diversity; when all other places seemed homogenous, one expected a crazy mix in NYC. Wallant's task was difficult: How does a writer craft episodes with ethnically, racially, or emotionally diverse people while avoiding stereotype? These kinds of diversity, in Tenants of Moonbloom, appear kooky or kinky and exotic to the reader not from New York, but the characters' misery and alienation makes the ending almost necessary. This might be the only novel--that I recall--that reconciles these wide differences and links the fate of the characters.

Until this novel, it had never occurred to me that renovating and cleaning rentals could be a spiritual experience. The Tenants of Moonbloom could be New York City's quintessential existentialist novel. Does it depict a kind of crazy, insanely inspired religious experience?

Edward Lewis Wallant's choice of words, his idiolect, his phrasing is at times so unusual that it took my attention away from the action and characters, but I would not have it any other way. Here are a few of Wallant"s images: "Turning, he [Beeler] motioned Norman to sit on a tortured ottoman" (39); "His stomach was used to food prepared for mass lack of taste" (42); "He began to laugh, caught himself, and shivered the mirth to a stop" (171).

Wallant's powers of observation: Norman with Bodien, the plumber, in the smelly, grimy basement, as they inspect and fix the water pipes: "Norman looked up with him at the dark ceiling of the cellar, as though he could see the metal veins carrying the flow through the body of the house, and pictured the sudden resumption of things in all the apartments" (76).

One of Wallant's gemstones: His rendition of writer James Baldwin as Paxton.

Wallant is specific about the location of the Moonbloom tenements. Maybe a reader in the NYC area can shed light on this: 70th Street, Mott Street, 2nd Avenue, and 13th Street.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8677d0e4) out of 5 stars A little-known masterpiece 11 Dec. 2006
By Jonathan Groner - Published on
Format: Paperback
Before picking up this book to read for a book group discussion, I had only vaguely heard of Wallant. I now see what I had been missing. Had he lived, Wallant would have found a significant place in 20th-century American literature.

Having read the book, I am convinced that Wallant was an American original with a distinctive voice. Not much happens in The Tenants of Moonbloom. Most of the action is interior to the characters, who are living their days in quiet desperation. Wallant is able to show humanity as it is -- no retouching here -- without succumbing to cynicism. He cares deeply for all his characters, with all their flaws and errors.

At the center of the action is Norman Moonbloom, who finds a secular religion and acts upon it. He is one of the more unforgettable characters whom I have encountered.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8677d60c) out of 5 stars An unknown masterpiece 11 Mar. 2000
By Rob - Published on
Format: Paperback
Readers will not be able to comprehend that something so profoundly written has not been reckognized into mainstream literature. I've never seen so many beautiful, exact and vivid sentences compacted into one work. The story is humorous and emotional, while striking into the heart of universal themes and characterization. Wallant should be considered as great of a writer as Faulkner or Melville.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8677d624) out of 5 stars A New York Novel 16 July 2010
By JAK - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are novels that could be set anywhere at anytime , this is isn't one of them.Your'e in New York , somewhwere between 1958 and 1962.That is that. If you don't know New York and have some idea as to what it was like at that time , you may not particularly enjoy this book.It reminded me in various ways of a number of other books set in post WWII New York such as I.B. Singers New York fictions,L.J. Davis' A MEANINGFUL LIFE and even Patricia Highsmith's late novels DOGS RANSOM and FOUND IN THE STREET and Samuel Delaneys MOTION OF LIGHT ON WATER. Chances are if you like those books you'll like this and viceversa.New York exists here as a living, breathing character , the stongest character in the book.If you want a contrast consider Saul Bellows novels .New York turns up all the time but it's merely incidental to say,HERZOG.Even in SEIZE THE DAY or MR.SAMMLERS PLANET New York is really a backdrop.Not here.
The novel ends on a comic moving grace note that is funny and really quite a triumph.It gives you a sense of why you were reading this book in the first place.Wallant's early death was a tragedy.
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