Edwin Newman Essay - Critical Essays

Newman, Edwin


Newman, Edwin 1919–

Newman, an American critic, novelist, and reporter, is an advocate of grammatical precision and clarity. Once a well-known Broadway critic, Newman now writes about the humorous and misleading usage of English. He also writes and appears in television documentaries concerning the commonly accepted fallacies of language communication. Newman has recently written his first novel, Sunday Punch. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 69-72.)

Most of [Sunday Punch] is mildly amusing, as are Newman's lightly satiric assaults in between the fights—on hog-washing Congressmen, chatty newscasters, the Washington in-crowd, bad sportswriters, gurus, and TV sit-coms…. But first-novelist Newman never really summons up a distinctive voice; it's all mixed echoes of Runyon, Lardner, Perelman, Wodehouse, and lesser sorts. A pleasant enough mix, but novel-length mildness (Perelman would have packed all the ideas here into a dazzling short story) may turn to tedium for all but the most sedate readers. (pp. 471-72)

"Fiction: 'Sunday Punch'," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1979 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLVII, No. 8, April 15, 1979, pp. 471-72.

Spencer Punnett

Never mind that you've seen the basic plot on a dozen old "B" movies, or that many of the characters are familiar stereotypes. The star of "Sunday Punch" is really the English language itself.

Edwin Newman uses the scenes of this comic novel to poke fun at the linguistic behavior of sportswriters and Washington socialites, academicians and "happy talk" TV newscasters. He gleefully parodies regionalisms, makes plays on words, and points an accusing finger at assorted verbal fads and clichés.

Such attention to language is only to be expected from a veteran television correspondent who in past years wrote the nonfiction best sellers "Strictly Speaking" and "A Civil Tongue." Both these books humorously lambasted a variety of follies, foibles, and needless obfuscations in current American writing and speech.

"Sunday Punch" chronicles the meteoric career of an unlikely athlete named Aubrey Philpott-Grimes, who rises from the obscurity of British amateur boxing to become a contender for the middleweight championship of the world….

[The book gives] a lot of chuckles, although few belly laughs. There is no element of depth to give it a more enduring appeal. But even for people like me, who reach to switch off the TV at the mere mention of boxing, "Sunday Punch" makes entertaining reading.

Spencer Punnett, "Pulling Punches," in The Christian...

(The entire section is 428 words.)

Joe Flaherty

Edwin Newman's first novel, "Sunday Punch," is a sad example of a man mesmerized by his inner music. The novel is ostensibly the story of an English middleweight named Aubrey Philpott-Grimes and his travails in America as he pursues the championship. The premise has promise.

Nathanael West mined it well when he sent Lemuel Pitkin out to conquer America in "A Cool Million." The difference is that West used inspired madness, while Mr. Newman settles for smug pedantry.

Early on, Mr. Newman lets us know that the target for his Sunday Punch is not the novel's plot line, but sundry targets: editorial writers, airline menus, luxury apartments, sportswriters, Washington political and social life, and any other gnat that has landed on the estimable Newman brow across the years….

But in his pursuit of cuffing around the booberies of our tongue (very little of it clever), Mr. Newman ignores Edmund Wilson's esthetic canon for the novel—a farrago is fine, if it lives.

Mr. Newman's novel doesn't live, because all his characters are cartoon characters….

[If it hadn't been for Newman's celebrity status] he probably would not have gotten a chance to unload his "Sunday Punch."

Joe Flaherty, "Many Funny Names," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1979 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 15, 1979, p. 13.