Publishers Weekly (review date 14 March 1994)
SOURCE: A review of The Prince of West End Avenue, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 241, No. 11, March 14, 1994, p. 63.
[In the following review, the critic favorably assesses The Prince of West End Avenue.]
Set in a retirement home in Manhattan's Upper West Side in 1978, Isler's haunting first novel [The Prince of West End Avenue] features Otto Korner, an Auschwitz survivor, who is directing his fellow retirees in a retirement home production of Hamlet. Otto blames his smug refusal to heed his first wife's desperate pleas to flee Nazi Germany for the tragedy that befell his family in the Holocaust. To keep his sanity, he searches everywhere for signs of a "greater Purpose," which constantly eludes him, even when the retirement home's new physical therapist turns out to be a dead ringer for Magda Damrosch, an old flame who broke his heart in Zurich in 1916. The retirees' sexual escapades, feuds, and political debates alternate with Otto's flashbacks to Hitler's Germany, or, much more often, to Zurich, where as a young literary journalist and emigré German poet, he met Lenin and mingled with Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp and their Dadaist circle. Isler, who teaches English literature at Queens College, has created a deeply cultured, fiercely articulate protagonist whose ironic voice hooks the reader as he ruminates on death and old age, love and libido, Mozart and the madness of history.