Nicholosa Mohr Marilyn Sachs - Essay

Marilyn Sachs

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Little Ray, in "A New Window Display" [one of the stories in "El Bronx Remembered"], is a newcomer from Puerto Rico who marvels at all the wonders in El Bronx: to every new experience, he says, "Qué fenomenal!" His friends have told him about the snow, and he is particularly eager to see it. But he never does. He dies before it comes, and his friends mourn for him in the best possible way—by playing in it themselves, shouting, sliding, turning and crying out for him at its beauty, "Qué fenomenal!"

If there is any message at all in these stories, any underlying theme, it is that life goes on. But Nicholasa Mohr is more interested in people than in messages. Essentially, she is an old-fashioned writer, a meat-and-potatoes writer, whose stories stick to your ribs. No complicated symbolism here, no trendy obscurity of meaning, no hopeless despair or militant ethnicity. Her people endure because they are people. Some of them suffer, some of them die, a few of them fail, but most of the time they endure, or others like them endure.

Most brilliant and tender, perhaps, of all these brilliant and tender stories, is "Mr. Mendelsohn," the story of a lonely old Jewish man who is befriended by a Puerto Rican family. Even though Mr. Mendelsohn dies finally, it is no tragedy because his last years have been enriched by kindness and love. Very different for Doña Nereida in the chilling story, "Princess." She is...

(The entire section is 457 words.)