Milo King's Reviews > Barney's Version

Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler
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's review
Feb 21, 11

bookshelves: fiction, jewish
Recommended to Milo by: Leslie Kuris
Read from February 01 to 11, 2011

Very funny book - if laughing keeps one's mental processes young and the creeping senility monster at bay - then this book probably added a couple of years to my life expectancy. After enduring the misanthropic, self-hating dark grumpiness of a couple of Howard Jacobson novels (Kalooki Nights and The Making of Henry), the misanthropic, self-hating but sizzlingly witty acidity of Mordechai Richler's narrator, Barney Panofsky was gift! A rogue you love to hate (or is it hate to love?) so much hasn't graced my reading list since reading Richler's Duddy Kravitz some three decades ago. To be sure the book is a bit of a marathon - at 400+ pages probably about 100 more than it needed to be...but Barney had a lot of time to cover - the nearly 70 years of his sentient life (and then some), including the three marriages that pretty much divide the book into thirds. While he's not exactly a likable character, he's squarely in the lovable rogue mode...and an engaging if unreliable storyteller - who seems to have been inserted, Zelig-like, in so many of the key pop-cultural moments of the mid-to-late 20th century.. It's an unusual and special treat that much of the narrative takes place in Montreal with the Franco-Anglo Canadian culture war as a backdrop. I'm looking forward to seeing the film, which was just released in Seattle this weekend...but am pretty concerned that so literary a novel- one that depends so much on language and literary wit - will translate well to the screen.

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