This richly ironic comedy is a nimble juggle of shifting realities-named by the Los Angeles Times one of the Best Books of 1999. Joel Zwilling is emerging as a literary wunderkind. But when Joel's wife and daughter are killed in a car accident, he is left with a young son, and a resulting writer's block as unmoving as a pyramid. Over the next two decades, Joel's career will be all but eclipsed by that of his son, Nate. Thus Nate is astounded-and jealous-when his father is approached by a slick director who wants to capture his tragic early work on film. As the director and his sensual assistant bedevil father and son, the retributions rain down upon all sides.
Feld (Shapes Mistaken, 1989, etc.) returns with an elegant novel built from the bricks of plain life - as people climb up out of the ashes of guilt and despair. Joel Zwilling was a success at 19 with an autobiographical novel about growing up in Brooklyn as the only child of Holocaust survivors. His next two books didn't do as well, but that paled to insignificance in light of the awful thing that did happen. In his 30s, Zwilling wrote a story about a man whose wife had died, and, a week before it was to run in Harper's, his own real wife, along with one of their two children, was killed. In despair and horror, he quit writing entirely, as if blaming himself for "his own miniature Holocaust." As the story is picked up now, it's 20 years later and Zwilling, obscure, remarried, essentially unemployed, is living in Cincinnati with his lawyer wife. And just how could his stalled, impacted life possibly change? Well, try the news of sudden interest in a movie about Zwilling, script to be written by his own son Nate, who's neither the picture of emotional balance nor free of rampant Zwillingian guilts, doubts, and remorses. Father and son are jetted to the West Coast to he wined and dined by director Brian Harkow - except that Harkow rashes off mid-wine to his 11-year-old daughter (she's got cystic fibrosis), leaving the Zwillings in the care of Harkow's handsome and intelligent assistant, Selva Tashjian (who's dreading a hysterectomy). There's fear and sorrow hidden everywhere - from Down's syndrome to plain obesity - as the reader happily meets character after character and as Harkow (who doesn't take his meds for bipolar disorder) and Selva descend on sleepy summertime Cincinnati for preproduction work. Feld is a three-star escort through the many and varied rooms of private - and thinking - lives before guarded affirmations end this gently moving comedy. Graceful, authentic, knowledgeable fiction, abundant with intelligent pleasures. (Kirkus Reviews)