Bowl of Cherries
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Bowl of Cherries

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  635 ratings  ·  131 reviews

The brilliant creation of ninety-year-old debut novelist Millard Kaufman, co-creator of Mr. Magoo and twice-nominated for Academy Awards for screenwriting, Bowl of Cherries rivals the liveliest comic epics for giddy wordplay and gleeful invention. Kicked out of Yale at the age of fourteen, Judd Breslau falls in with Phillips Chatterton, a bathrobe-wearing Egyptologist work...more
Audio CD, 9 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published August 1st 2007)
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Debbie
The man who wrote the first screenplay for Mr. Magoo, now at 91 years old, gives us his first novel. He is not new to writing, only novels, having written several screenplays, a few award winning.

Remember Mr. Magoo? Anyone? The blind man who did all kinds of funny things because he couldn't see? Well, that theme, the hilariousness of blindness comes out in BOWL OF CHERRIES. Everyone blind with greed. And when you're blind, things get rather funny.

Mr. Kaufman, bless his heart, has accumulated a...more
Anastasia
Mar 16, 2008 Anastasia rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like boring books
Shelves: 2008, fiction
3/14 I just started this book last night and, sadly, I have had to re-read several pages to really get the gist of what's going on. I don't think I'm an especially stupid person. Kaufman, in his 90 years, has simply learned A LOT of words (that I haven't yet learned).

Luckily for anyone who is reading this review before reading the book, here is a list of THIRTY-FOUR words (and their definitions) you probably don't know, either:

1. bilbo--a long iron bar or bolt with sliding shackles and a lock, f...more
James
I have just finished reading Bowl of Cherries, the debut novel from nonagenarian, Oscar-nominee, and Mr. Magoo co-creator Millard Kaufman.

Kaufman is a precocious writer, unabashedly using phrases like “wee beasties,” and this particular tale is indeed cut from the same cloth as Catcher in the Rye. In fact, given all the secrecy and reclusive nature surrounding J.D. Salinger, I’m going to go ahead and spin the rumor mill: Millard Kaufman IS J.D. Salinger.

Millard also displays a mighty vocabulary...more
Erin
i read this because this is the author's first work. the author is in his 90's. bully for him! and, truly, the publisher is to be commended for a great book design. sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

slightly strange book by oddly hypnotic. i couldn't stop reading it. honestly, it was just a compelling read. i can't even say specifically whether it was the plot or the characters that drove my interest... it just kind of happened. i suppose i needed to see how it was going to end.

definit...more
Lindsey
the prose and references are really intelligent, which one might hope is a given coming from a 98-year-old debut novelist - but the density of the novel was surprising to me. it still retains a very playful attitude; i found myself smiling at more than one passage. but i was unsatisfied with the abrupt ending, especially after reading through the rest which was so well crafted.
Matt
A birdie that lives inside me said to check this book out, written by quite an old man who has lived a full life. I enjoyed 30% of the book, the remaining 70% reminded me why I hate gifted children, pick fights with them I always said. I will continue to say-unless they are in an Iraqi jail. If I go by this book once they get to that near death place in life they become cool.
Helen
i liked the part of this book where i was having trouble sleeping and i read it and i fell asleep.
Geof
Millard Kaufman, who is in his 90s, is a pretty good writer. He obviously loves language and has a vocabulary to boot, and his sense of humor is – for a man of an older generation – well-anchored in the modern era. But his first novel is not what I would call great.

One gets the impression that if he had started writing fiction earlier, he might have churned out something pretty incredible by now. Bowl of Cherries is not it. However, I would still recommend it as an entertaining and quick read w...more
Paul
Hmm. This book was touted as similar to the works of Vonnegut or Heller, but I can't see it. The tale is told well enough, but there was little of the humor I hoped to find. Kaufman's vocabulary is impressive - I often found myself going to the dictionary, which can be tiresome.

I also dislike stories which jump back and forth between the past and the present, which this tale does. Fortunately, those interludes are generally fairly short, so the action keeps moving forward.

Overall, I wouldn't ste...more
n* Dalal
I read this book at the same time that I was re-reading Cat's Cradle, by the sorely missed Mr. Vonnegut. It was actually a very bizarre experience, because the books have some fairly severe similarities in plot.

1. Both narrators are scholars that are rather unimpressed with their work.

2. Within the first few pages of the both books, each scholar-narrator writes a letter requesting information on fictional historic characters.

3. Both scholar-narrators end up taking jobs highly out of their genera...more
Paul
I wanted to like this book a LOT more than I did. How you can not get behind a 1st novel written by an author is his NINETIES?

Unfortunately, it is what it is...meaning that it's a first novel, and it shows. It shows in the tenuous structure, linked only because it's all happening to the protagonist, and it shows in the manner of how the author gives equal import to every event, regardless if that event has any import to the story, and it shows in the irritating over-use of language, as "literat...more
Sara
Jan 22, 2008 Sara rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who maintains a slightly juvenile sense of humor
Shelves: fiction
"Bowl of Cherries" is a first novel by a ninety-three year old writer. I find this adorable and plunge in. The book is humorous, with well-imagined characters and thoroughly sprinkled with words you have only seen in dictionaries and many that you are suspicious Kaufman may have invented.

The plot moves along at a steady pace; the main character, a listless and luckless boy genius scrambles from bizarre setting to bizarre setting at a rate that keeps things interesting. I wasn't entirely won over...more
Magda
A year sped by, calendar leaves exfoliating.

And so it was that on a dank, dark autumn day, before the hermetic snows of winter gripped the world and everything went bare and shriveled and icy, I sloshed through the melancholy leaves down the tree-lined corridor of Chatterton's ancestral seat.

Of course we were not lovers, now would we ever be in any sense of the word that transcended an almost jarring physicality; lovers make love in countless ways, seeking contact as well as connection. They han...more
Josh
I liked this book quite a bit. It's very impressive for a 90 year old first time novelist. At times I feel like Kaufman has a difficult time speaking in the language of youth in today's culture. Judd, the protagonist, doesn't exactly talk like Juno. In fact, were it not for the inclusion of the war in Iraq and a scene with a bumbling misspoken president, I would think this book could be 30 years old. But, in the long run, Kaufman makes the young characters work by sticking to this same timelessn...more
Steven
This is a farce. What else could you call a plot revolving around a journey to a rat-infested desert sheikdom in search of a secret process for turning human excrement into construction material? There, I've turned you off. But read this book. See that plot revealed in an intricately constructed, pyrotechnically written, amazing first novel. And, of course, the real subject is not a pile of crap; this book explores the essence of humanity, the soul of America and the Garden of Eden - or, more pr...more
Ralph
Laughably, intentionally badly written, this book is almost a caricature of the Michael Chabon novel, with its florid, esoteric 800 verbal SAT score prose and Jewish protagonist.

I'm not sure if the author, the ninety year old creator of Mr. Magoo, intended to simulate youth vernacular of today, as the novel is set around 2004, they speak more like youth from the '60s or '70s, which adds to the humor value. Their actions as well as the descriptions of locations, seem hopelessly dated in the past...more
Julie
Sep 29, 2008 Julie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Tom Robbins, Confederacy of Dunces
Recommended to Julie by: Entertainment Weekly
I laughed so many times while reading this book, I will remember it fondly!

The hero is like a less-loathsome Ignatius J. Reilly (Confederacy of Dunces protagonist)--he relentlessly criticizes the ridiculous elements and people in his life with a mind-blowing vocabulary and monumental sense of humor. He's like a Holden-Caufield-softened Ignatius.

Here is a passage that had me chortling at the reference desk:

"Another and noxiously pervasive ambiance was in the air; immediately I traced it to Dere...more
Sarah
Mar 13, 2008 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lexiconophilists, logophiles
Recommended to Sarah by: Calgary Public Library's New and Notables
Shelves: 2008
Millard Kaufman is smart. Really, really clever. A description of the narrative of this book would not have enticed me to read it, but a random sampling of the prose most certainly did.

Observe the first paragraph on page 49:

Me? Mature? I rearranged my face into a saint's mask of huckdummy humility, a violet by a mossy stone, in Wordworth's lapidary phrase, half-hidden from the eye. A conspiratorial hush descended on the fuggy, frostbitten room, profaned by the disintegrating smell of meals. Ind...more
Gary
Very good. My only regret is that I read a hardcopy as opposed to an eBook. The syntax is so advanced I had to look up a word on every third page.

The story follows the adventures of sixteen-year old Judd who has flaked out of a Yale PhD program and latches onto a gorgeous but idiotic girl named Valerie. It's like a coming-of-age book except instead of enlightenment the protagonist finds imprisonment in a horrible jail in Southern Iraq. In between, Judd finds all manner of strange characters fro...more
Sara
Here's something unexpected: a youthful, energetic debut novel by a 90 year old for whom it apparently wasn't enough to be a WWII veteran, co-creator of Mr. Magoo, AND two time Oscar nominee. Now he gets to hob-nob with all the hipsters at McSweeney's too but it is well deserved. He's written a grand comic opera in the tradition of Vonnegut or Voltaire with just a touch of Joseph Heller, only this time around the best of all possible worlds might be a small province in Iraq that's shaped like a...more
Natalie
Now that I am all sad and alone in a house with no furniture, sick in my bed and cut off from the outside world I have only books and goodreads to turn to when procrastinating on turning in my homework for f%*@$ng library school.

Every review you read of this book will start out by telling you that the author is a first time novelist and octogenarian. True. The sprawling scope and academic references remind me of Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace (the little I actually read of them) and the...more
Ross
Jan 27, 2009 Ross rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ross by: Mer gave it to me for Christmas.
If you haven't heard of him - and I had not - Millard Kaufman was the creator Mr. Magoo and a screen writer, etc. for over 50 years. He published this, his first novel, at age 91. All that being said, he writes with a fresher voice and better style than any of the Brooklyn "literati" that I have read recently. The action takes place all over the globe - including in a fictional Iraqui province known as "Assama" - I know it is fictional because I looked it up - and follows Judd, a child prodigy/g...more
Turi
Well - that was a crazy read! I saw this one go by at work and got sucked in by the line in the blurb that read "ninety-year old debut novelist." Then I read more and it sounded like the kind of wacky fiction I like to read. Boy, was I in for it, though. My best description? Kurt Vonnegut meets Tom Robbins, and they collaborate on a novel using a 1951 unabridged thesaurus. I mean, read the blurb on amazon - and then think of that plot, wrapped in a tapestry of vocabulary words that were almost b...more
Amy
Millard Kaufman has such a wonderful way of phrasing things. He has such snappy one-liners and can say something so insightful in just a few words. I loved how this book was written, but I didn't like the story. The first chapter was so extremely difficult for me to get through. I was glad I kept reading, because I would have missed some great sentences, but I never liked the story. I really skimmed the last third of the book. I didn't like how some things ended up at all, and some of it seemed...more
Greg
I thought this book started out extremely strong, in fact I bought it based on the first 40 pages that came in an issue of Mcsweeney's. But the clever, sardonic style of the first third of the book melts away somewhat in the middle. The story is still interesting, and the characters are certainly that, but it loses some steam. The ending seemed to come about rather suddenly, and the last chapter seems to compress a lot of moral into a small space. The book definitely provides commentary on aspec...more
Johanna
This book was pretty strange. At times it went very slowly, and other times pretty quickly. There were some weird plot twists and scenarios, and I found myself never quite believing the narrator or understanding any of the other characters' development. Plus, I don't think it had the best portrayal of women, though the author was a 90 year old man when he wrote it, so maybe that has something to do with it. I think the themes in the end were interesting, and some of the writing was great (while...more
Erik Koster
If you enjoy looking up nonexistent words and phrases in the dictionary three times a page, then this book's for you. I am not in that camp. That's not whimsical, it's annoying.

If you enjoy awful and confusing plots about teenage angst coupled with strange forays into the Middle East coupled with moving objects with music (?), then this book's for you. I'm not in that camp either.

This book sucked, and if the author was 30 instead of 90 when he wrote it, it would have been MUCH more maligned, bu...more
Kim
This book offered a lot. The main character was intriguing but lacked a real drive. The real drive was offered by his obsession with his love interest but she lacked any real depth to make up for lack of motivation. The book dragged on and on, even though the story could have been done one hundred and fifty pages back. The writing, which is witty and fun, was the only thing that kept me turning pages. That and I really wanted to know what the heck was going on. It's good read if you have patienc...more
Andy
Millard Kaufman, a creator of Mr. Magoo, started this novel at age 86 and finished it when he was 90. It was his first novel...pretty incredible.

The book itself is a bit of an oddball story about a prodigy who gets sick of graduate school and finds his way to several improbable adventures. I liked the book but would have liked more character development. I liked the characters and wanted to know more about them and understand them better. Some things were brought up and simply dropped, without m...more
Steve Ma
Very original, some great characters who don't get the development they deserve, and some uninteresting ones who do but are unfortunately central to the book. It's funny, zany and an old man's take on modernity. You might disagree but you'll see why people compare him to Vonnegut, the Coen Brothers, etc. The plot bogs down at times as does Kaufman's writing, which is mostly engaging and entertaining, but sometimes delves too deep into the dictionary. Worth a read, and you'll probably wish like m...more
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vocabulary words for Bowl of Cherries 2 21 Mar 20, 2008 09:30PM  
  • Arkansas
  • McSweeney's #25
  • Vacation
  • God Says No
  • The Convalescent
  • Here They Come
  • This Shape We're In
  • Fever Chart
  • I.
  • Noisy outlaws, unfriendly blobs, and some other things that aren't as scary, maybe, depending on how you feel about lost lands, stray cellphones, creatures from the sky, parents who disappear in Peru, a man named Lars Farf, and one other story [...]
Millard Kaufman was an American Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and novelist.
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“Happiness, it has been observed, is best achieved by those who have been most unhappy heretofore.” 21 likes
“I glanced out the window at the signs of spring. The sky was almost blue, the trees were almost budding, the sun was almost bright.” 19 likes
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