The Tenants Of Moonbloom (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 15 Nov 2003
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.