Leonard Michaels Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Leonard Michaels is as well known for his 1981 novel The Men’s Club as he is for his much admired short-story collections. He was also the author of the autobiographical To Feel These Things: Essays (1993) and Sylvia: A Fictional Memoir (1992). Shuffle (1990) is a collection of essays and what Michaels called “autobiographical fiction.” He collaborated with artist Frances Lerner on a coffee-table book entitled A Cat (1995), filled with almost a hundred observations about cats accompanied by Lerner’s line drawings.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Leonard Michaels’s first collection of stories, Going Places, was nominated for the National Book Award in 1969. He was a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow in 1969 and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow in 1970. He received a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Literature in 1971 and The New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice Award in 1975. His novel, The Men’s Club (1993), was nominated for the American Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1982.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

DeCurtis, Anthony. “Self Under Siege: The Stories of Leonard Michaels.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 21 (1979): 101-111. Argues that in his first two collections of stories the most pressing problem Michaels’s characters confront is maintaining their humanity in face of the brutalization of modern life. Says his stories reveal the tenuous props that sustain continuity in the modern world. Discusses Michaels’s imagery, his style, and his treatment of violence.

Ditsky, John. “A Men’s Club: The Fiction of Leonard Michaels.” The Hollins Critic 28 (December, 1991): 2-11. A survey of Michaels’s work through Shuffle; discusses autobiographical elements of his fiction, which he argues is energized by a tension between academic intellectuality and indulgent sexuality embodied in his characters. Says that in his work sex becomes a language at odds with the purely verbal.

Donoghue, Denis. “Couples.” The New York Review of Books 13 (July 10, 1969): 17-20. A review of Going Places in which Donoghue claims that the paradigm for Michaels’s fiction is two people locked in violence, in which the people hardly matter except as conduits for the violence. Argues that the most powerful story in the collection, “The Deal,” makes more stringent demands on the gothic genre than usual.


(The entire section is 454 words.)