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on May 01, 2013 :
Those who are partial to novels written through shifting vantage points, where each character is given an independent space to develop before all are woven together at the end, will find a lot to like in '3 Through History.' The reader of strict narrative might be put off by the jumping around, but I've always tended to favor just the sort of prose Fischman gives us here. I'm not sure about his subtitle, as I've found every era the sort of dashed-promise and self-centered era he shows us for the 1980-2010 period covered here. Let's not cede that space as particularly Republican!
Oddly enough, since the book centers on a Rafi/Dimitri rivalry, the most vividly developed character in many ways is Frida, the love interest of both gentlemen. Her narrative in Puebla and Mexico City seems unusually close and alive, perhaps because that's simply the kind of person Frida is. Dimitri and Rafi develop their focal points through the prism of larger news events, such as the August 1991 coup in the Soviet Union, or the responses of observers to Sept. 11, 2001. I get the most value out of having Dimitri and Rafi give their kibbutzim stories - in fact, the juxtaposition of the Soviet coup with the faded glory of kibbutznik dreams works surprisingly well.
Rafi and Dimitri in the 1990s-2010 era are a little fuzzier, because there's not a lot to make their characters seem sympathetic, save for Dimitri's fling under the boardwalk and the subsequent jail time. In some senses, they seem drifters without purpose and musicians without a contract - but then again, it's often hard to find a center for most of Kerouac's characters, or for Tyrone Slothrop in Pynchon's 'Gravity's Rainbow.' Dimitri and Rafi may be just that close to real life - antiheroes wishing they were heroes.
Fischman is particularly effective in having Dimitri's brother-in-law Arnie describe Sept. 11 from the perspective of a rider trapped in New York's subway system near Canal Street. The passages here are gripping and unique. But as the reader steps back to the larger landscape, it becomes clear that Fischman is always this good in his descriptive passages. Like the old-fashioned long-form journalist who is there for critical events through history, Fischman gives us prose that sizzles with specificity of time and place.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Dec. 26, 2012 :
I was fairly confident that I'd love this book the moment I started looking into it. I'm a history addict, and even though this book isn't quite what I'd consider "contemporary lit" it's closer to the category than most books I've been reading lately, and I was excited for the shift.
Well I wasn't disappointed, I can tell you that much. From a technical standpoint, the book is very well told. Often when a book is being told from two different view points, the characters can become muddled or interchangeable, but Fischman handles both characters with great care. The writing is very well done, tight and the prose is detailed enough to wrap you in his world, but not so full of unnecessary information that you get lost in the paragraphs and forget where you are.
The book was also funny at times, which was a delightful surprise. It's not what I'd consider a comedy, but there's enough small smiles and little chuckles in there to keep you going.
I read the book fast, and it's not a small book by any means, but I couldn't put it down. It was a nice treat during the hectic holiday season, and I would absolutely pick something up from Fischman again. This book is getting a very well deserved five of five stars!
(reviewed the day of purchase)