Uncle (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Contemporary society has discovered self-analysis with a fury. Challenging our lives, questioning our motives, and confronting situations are matters reflected not only in daily conversations, but also in our forms of cultural expression. Movies explore the mind, self-improvement books abound, and various schools of self-analysis find new adherents daily. Julia Markus’ short novel Uncle also concerns itself with these matters. Yet Markus has written a book not so much concerned with finding answers as with observing a process. The reader is swept along by the story as an observer rather than a participant in the conflict portrayed. The story illuminates but does not involve.
Irving Bender, the hard-working, self-sacrificing son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, occupies the center of this novel. He is the “uncle” who exercises his influence on family, friend, and lover alike. As the novel begins, Irv seems to give everything possible to make life easier and better for those he loves or those for whom he feels responsibility. However, slowly and subtly the author lays out his “good deeds” for inspection; as she does so, his motives become increasingly complex.
The novel is structured in three parts. Markus introduces the characters in a terse, lackluster style, not unlike the life the Bender family leads in Jersey City. She employs short sentences almost devoid of detail which skim over events and rapidly carry the...
(The entire section is 1604 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Book World. September 24, 1978, p. E1.
Christian Science Monitor. LXX, November 3, 1978, p. 27.
Kirkus Reviews. XLVI, July 1, 1978, p. 711.
New Republic. CLXXXIX, October 7, 1978, p. 38.
Newsweek. XCII, October 9, 1978, p. 109.
Saturday Review. V, September 2, 1978, p. 43.
(The entire section is 30 words.)