Brooklyn is dead. Long live the Bronx! In Bitter Bronx, Jerome Charyn returns to his roots and leads the literary renaissance of an oft-overlooked borough in this surprising new collection.
In Bitter Bronx, one of our most gifted and original novelists depicts a world before and after modern urban renewal destroyed the gritty sanctity of a land made famous by Ruth, Gehrig, and Joltin' Joe.
Bitter Bronx is suffused with the texture and nostalgia of a lost time and place, combining a keen eye for detail with Jerome Charyn's lived experience. These stories are informed by a childhood growing up near that middle-class mecca, the Grand Concourse; falling in love with three voluptuous librarians at a public library in the Lower Depths of the South Bronx; and eating at Mafia-owned restaurants along Arthur Avenue's restaurant row, amid a "land of deprivation…where fathers trundled home…with a monumental sadness on their shoulders.
In "Lorelei," a lonely hearts grifter returns home and finds his childhood sweetheart still living in the same apartment house on the Concourse; in "Archy and Mehitabel" a high school romance blossoms around a newspaper comic strip; in "Major Leaguer" a former New York Yankee confronts both a gang of drug dealers and the wreckage that Robert Moses wrought in his old neighborhood; and in three interconnected stories―"Silk & Silk," "Little Sister," and "Marla"―Marla Silk, a successful Manhattan attorney, discovers her father's past in the Bronx and a mysterious younger sister who was hidden from her, kept in a fancy rest home near the Botanical Garden. In these stories and others, the past and present tumble together in Charyn's singular and distinctly "New York prose, street-smart, sly, and full of lurches" (John Leonard, New York Times).
Throughout it all looms the "master builder" Robert Moses, a man who believed he could "save" the Bronx by building a highway through it, dynamiting whole neighborhoods in the process. Bitter Bronx stands as both a fictional eulogy for the people and places paved over by Moses' expressway and an affirmation of Charyn's "brilliant imagination" (Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune).
“[Jerome Charyn] is to the Bronx what Saul Bellow, early in his career, was to Upper Broadway―bard, celebrant, mythologizer.” (Jonathan Yardley - Washington Post)
“It is no small achievement to be the Babel of the Bronx.” (Leslie Epstein - New York Times Book Review)
“Jerome Charyn is one of the most important writers in American literature.” (Michael Chabon)
“Jerome Charyn is merely one of our finest writers, with a polymorphous imagination and crack comic timing. Whatever milieu he chooses to inhabit, his characters sizzle with life, and his sentences are pure vernacular music, his voice unmistakable.” (Jonathan Lethem)
“Charyn, like Nabokov, is that most fiendish sort of writer―so seductive as to beg imitation, so singular as to make imitation impossible.” (Tom Bissell)
“Jerome Charyn's Bronx is a landscape of magic and passion. With…American yearning and a stage full of unforgettable characters.” (BookPage)
“Grifters, gangs, vamps, and lost souls pursue gritty lives in ‘the brick wilderness of the Bronx’ in this collection of tales by a veteran storyteller and native of the New York borough…. Charyn's staccato style is full of jolts, surprising observations, and turns of phrase. It works well with the rough struggle for survival and success….” (Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review)
“Tough on the outside but tender at heart, the 13 stories in this volume serve as a nostalgic elegy to the Bronx of the past…. Mixing equal parts grit and charm, there’s no need to have set foot in the Bronx to enjoy these stories.” (Publishers Weekly)
Jerome Charyn's stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Paris Review, American Scholar, Epoch, Narrative, Ellery Queen, and other magazines. His most recent novel is I Am Abraham. He lived for many years in Paris and currently resides in Manhattan.