Thursday, November 21, 2019

Book Review: 'David Lazar' by Robert Kalich

David Lazar by Robert Kalich

‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards’ - Kierkegaard

New York City author/writer Robert Kalich is co-founder of The Kalich Organization – a film and theatrical production company – and in addition to his novels he has written handbooks on professional basketball and baseball players. He has been a social worker, a journalist, and a professional basketball consultant. His popular novels THE HANDICAPPER: A NOVEL ABOUT OBSESSIVE GAMBLING and THE INVESTIGATION OF ARIEL WARNING have won awards, and now his new novel – DAVID LAZAR – is a fictionalized memoir, and as such it is an impressive venture for the author and a most rewarding one for the reader!

Writing a memoir, a true reflection on a rich life, carries the problem of revealing facts about self, but also facts about confreres that could be embarrassing. Robert avoids the pitfalls by making this fascinating book a fictional account, thus protecting the ‘innocent.’ A hint of why this choice of direction was chosen is evident in Robert’s early-on statement: ‘The protagonist is not likeable. He is unlikeable. He has inimical traits stretching the worldly gamut from Here to There. Those traits take center stage when he whines and feels sorry for himself rather than man up and offer remorse to those individuals he manipulated, maimed, and destroyed. To add pepper to his cruelties, David Lazar’s lifestyle should be labeled obscene, an eighty-year stench. Let’s face it, David Lazar is not to be envied. He’s as universally flawed as most of us. Read on; decide for yourself if I am mistaken.’ And with that ‘clarification’ the author proceeds with one fine novel.’

Opening with David’s own survey of his life, we read ‘On two of the high walls of my wood-paneled study are giant collages with extremely small photographs of faces pasted onto cardboards. When I look at this collage of people, I see my own life in front of me as if it were beginning and ending, living with deep gulps of nostalgia, heartache, and self-condemnation in between. Think of it as taking a swim in dangerous currents, going under, coming back to the surface to gasp one more time. It all began so long ago. But this is not a story going from point to point; instead, it’s a shuffling of my entire existence, like a deck of cards. So, if I confuse you, it just happens to be the way I see my life, not as anything coherent or straightforward but as cards being manipulated by a dealer’s deft hands, falling into place as if they were casino chips and when stacked—Bingo! You have an octogenarian who’s still surviving, some would say, on God’s inexplicable blessed air. The question now is, can you place these cards of my life where they belong?’

The story? ‘David Lazar is a born and bred New Yorker reflecting on the arc of his life as he composes his memoir, told by a complex and compelling narrator. A professional sports gambler, Lazar is haunted by the immoral nature of the very work that made him rich. His innermost being is shaken as he reimagines the dehumanizing nature of his work and former life. Did he sell his soul to make it? Is there redemption for wealth based on corruption and violence? If he is completely honest, does he risk losing what he cherishes the most: the love and respect of his wife and son?’

In eloquent prose Robert Kalich launches a brilliant novel, one most assuredly to become a best seller. Highly recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.