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Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud (1955)

Like all great stories, The Magic Barrel takes its reader on an adventure. The characters become alive and you can almost hear the broken English accent of Salzman. Salzman is a marriage broker who plays an instrumental part in helping Leo Finkle obtain a mate. Finkle is just finishing the last of six years worth of studying at Yeshivah University. Finkle realizes that his new congregation might view him more favorably if he is married. However, the last six years have left him socially stagnant and not understanding the workings of love. Salzman rattles off a list of three eligible women in his portfolio that he is sure will win Finkle over. However, after a disastrous first date with a woman, Finkle banishes Salzman from his house. Before he leaves, Salzman notes “Listen rabbi, if you want love, this I can find for you also. I have such beautiful clients that you will love them the minute your eyes will see them.” Before he leaves, Salzman leaves an envelope of pictures of six women that might interest Finkle. Finkle stews and becomes more and more desperate. He rips open the envelope and studies the faces of the pictured women. After a while none catch his fancy. Then he comes upon a picture of another woman. This woman’s picture is not like the others with color and of a larger size. The photo of the woman is very small and black and white. Finkle questions Salzman about the woman. Salzman refuses to allow Finkle to date this woman because she is Salzman’s daughter. Finkle persuades Salzman to meet her. “Leaving the cafeteria, he was, however, afflicted by a tormenting suspicion that Salzman had planned it all to happen this way” Finkle meets the woman. “Around the corner, Salzman, leaning against a wall, chanted prayers for the dead.”

1 comment:

shersy said...

Sounds like a really great story! Thanks for sharing it. Even your description came to life for me :)