Published posthumously (Wallant died of an aneurysm in December, 1962, leaving this and another novel in manuscript), THE TENANTS OF MOONBLOOM is a profoundly humorous novel centering its focus on an awakening that exhibits the intensities and accents of a religious conversion to human dignity without ever departing from the secular indignities of the human condition. The acerbities of its plot, the grotesquerie of its characterizations, and the slyness of its humor are the marks of Edward Lewis Wallant’s special talent, one removed from the current fashionable modes of writing. Although he was Jewish and specifically concerned with the treatment of Jewish themes, he is not a “Jewish writer” in the same sense as Bernard Malamud or Philip Roth. Although his work traffics at the very heart of the Existentialist intersection, he cannot be categorized with Heller, Pynchon, or Donleavy as practitioners of “the absurd.” THE TENANTS OF MOONBLOOM falls between both camps, occupying its own lonely place. It is possible, paradoxically, that this achievement of solitude is also the rare achievement of art, and the novel may continue to live after many changes in literary fashions.
As Wallant’s third novel, it represents a distinct technical development over his earlier work. In particular, the major structural crudities that marred THE HUMAN SEASON, in 1960, and THE PAWNBROKER, in 1961, have been eradicated or...
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