Those who seek a "new life" are intent upon leaving a former life behind, or more plainly put, running away from something or someone, possibly themselves, This is certainly the case with the protagonist, Seymour Levin. This book is all about Levin, his troubled past, his character, his choices, his prospects; the book must succeed or fail almost entirely on how compellingly it portrays him as an individual. And therein lies a problem, because Levin is by no means a strong or even likeable character. He has been by his own admission a failure; by moving to a remote locale, very different from the big city, he looks to change his future. But the frailties, ineptitude, tendency toward failed relationships that marked his former life have followed him here. Relocating and acquiring a supposedly more estimable position has not magically transformed Levin into a better person; worse, he begins to realize that he did not win this job on his merits but rather that other agendas are in play ....
Other reviewers seem to take A New Life as comic criticism of small-town Western provincialism in the early 1950s through the eyes of a fish-out-of-water Jewish New Yorker, and a good long look at campus life and the landscape in Corvallis at that time. It contains those things, sure, entertainingly, but there's just as much English department academic politics, a love story wound up by astonishing lust, and narrator whose interior self-image doesn't match up with his dialog. For me the best parts were those light strokes of foreshadowing in the first household encounter that don't really get resolved until the last few pages. Malamud lasted 10 years longer at OSU than his semi-autobiographical S. Levin, which makes you wonder how.
inspired by Amis Lucky Jim
recommended by Yardley in Second Reading
inspriation for David Lodge's Changing Places http://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/item/show/570294026_changing_places
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