Bruce Jay Friedman Friedman, Bruce Jay (Vol. 3)

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Friedman, Bruce Jay (Vol. 3)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Friedman, Bruce Jay 1930–

Friedman is an American black-humour novelist and short story writer whose work deals with the urban Jewish bourgeois. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.)

These tales ["Far From the City of Class" And Other Stories], which are for the most part upbeat moral sensibility studies in the manner of a down-to-earth Henry James, and "representative anecdotes" (in Kenneth Burke's phrase), combine Friedman's weird ironic satire with his finely-developed theatre-of-the-absurd humor and brilliantly insipid dialogue. A man of many strange fixations (ulcer patients, an obscenely dominating mother, Vic Tanny appurtenances, etc.), Friedman is at his most offbeat in his grotesque blends of necromancy, diabolism, and corporate power-structure politics….

A satirical master of speech cadences and monotonies, an astute characterologist, an "imaginer of disaster" (in the Jamesian mode), Bruce Jay Friedman is probably one of the few genuinely promising younger writers around. Many of his short story ideas—to say nothing of his short novel Stern—might well have been developed into a broad-canvas work of art. Perhaps that is what we'll someday have from him.

Samuel I. Bellman, in Studies in Short Fiction, Winter, 1964, pp. 167-69.

Friedman is the most unselfconscious Freudian novelist I have ever read, and his appearance may finally herald a literary generation that can make full imaginative use of psychoanalytic insight.

Friedman's other important ancestor is Joyce, and Stern frequently suggests Leopold Bloom, without suffering in the comparison. In its lightning tempo and garish exaggeration, Stern will probably remind readers of Joseph Heller's Catch-22…. Stern is a boldly symbolist, even allegorical, book: Stern's ulcer is rotten Jewishness, eating away at his insides; it ate away the other half of the half man; it will eat up any neurotic Jew who makes it a negative identity and uses it self-destructively…. Friedman's style is uneven, and some things miss fire. I am not sure that the ending comes off, although I cannot invent any better ending. But these are minor flaws in a great success. Friedman has written a superbly funny novel about suffering and misery, somehow augmenting rather than diminishing our capacity to be moved by it. He has plunged deep into weakness and neurosis, and come up with something strong and sane. He is greatly gifted, fiercely honest, and very welcome news indeed.

Stanley Edgar Hyman, "An Exceptional First Novel," in his Standards: A Chronicle of Books for Our Time (© 1966; reprinted by permission of the publisher, Horizon Press, New York), Horizon, 1966, pp. 98-102.

Bruce Jay Friedman, who either coined the term "black humor" or at least holds the American rights [to] it, is [clever] … and … consciously cheap…. Friedman is a cynical pro. His idiom is a contemptuous wise-cracking patter. He snows the marks, who don't realize that the contempt includes them. He is slick, slick, slick….

[There] is very good fast wacky talk [in Black Angels]. It doesn't pretend to be anything else. Friedman doesn't aim high. He fully achieves his low ambition. He isn't satirizing the medical profession or anything else, he's just being generally contemptuous.

J. Mitchell Morse, in The Hudson Review, (copyright © 1967 by The Hudson Review, Inc.; reprinted by permission), Vol. XIX, No. 4, Winter, 1966–67, pp. 677-78.

Even when his power supply is shut off, as happens now and then in the sixteen stories in this volume [Black Angels: Stories], Bruce Jay Friedman is still one of the most unusual distant-drum-responding fiction writers around. His special mana has been picked up by a number of ambitious young satirists, Stanley Elkin for example, but like the critics' Hemingway, Friedman remains the old pro, the once and future Champ. Intoning a line of show-business patter or chanting a Madison Avenue song of spring, Friedman nimbly conjures up a dark world of supernatural "deals," fixes, and forbidden...

(The entire section is 1,707 words.)