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The Isaac Quartet

Jerome Charyn: The Isaac Quartet (USA 2002)

From the Publisher:
Jerome Charyn has completely subverted the genre of crime fiction - exploded it into another form. His Isaac Sidel novels are published all over the world - Italy, Spain, Finland, Israel, Germany, Greece, Japan - and in France they have become cult books that will soon be turned into a television series. In a recent front page review, Le Monde likened him to a modern Balzac with a jazzy twist who has reinvented the landscape of late twentieth-century America and is already pushing it far into the twenty-first.

His style is like a demonic jazz riff, with constant invention. Crime writer Lawrence Block claims Charyn possesses "the richest imagination in contemporary American letters." The Isaac Quartet is a chance to revisit Jerome Charyn and rediscover the haunting, sad, and touching tones and turns of his prose. His deep compassion for the marginal and the dispossessed, and his comic twists have been likened to Faulkner. Indeed, Charyn has created his own Yoknapatawpha County in the ambiguous landscapes of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Like Faulkner, Charyn has created an alternative universe, one that mythologizes New York and reflects upon it with a kind of crazy glow. His gangsters have their own particular poetry. His cops are either ruthlessly honest or ruthlessly corrupt. The Guzmanns, a tribe of Peruvian pimps, are utterly devoted to their brood.

The haunting enigma of the Quartet is Manfred "Blue Eyes" Coen, adjutant of Isaac Sidel, the fiercest cop on the street. Coen is killed in the middle of a ping-pong match, and though Isaac didn't really set him up, he gave Coen a little shove toward eternity. Isaac's errant daughter, Marilyn the Wild, was in love with Coen, and Sidel couldn't control his jealousy. But he's punished very quickly; the Guzmanns have infected him with a tapeworm, and this tapeworm unravels Isaac's conscience, makes him constantly dream of Coen.

Charyn says that it's the death of Coen that inspired the Quartet. He never would have continued if Coen hadn't been killed. In Marilyn the Wild, he resurrects Blue Eyes (it's a prequel to the first novel). But, of course, Coen can't go on living forever. And in Secret Isaac, a Joycean journey through the nighttowns of Dublin and New York, Coen lives inside Isaac's gut, like the tapeworm itself, and along the way we're on a constant roller-coaster ride, where our own guts get squeezed - with both terror and delight.

Jerome Charyn was born in the Bronx in 1937, and is the author of more than thirty books. He lives in New York and Paris.

Jerome Charyn: The Isaac Quartet. Blue Eyes - Marilyn the Wild - The Education of Patrick Silver - Secret Isaac. Four Walls Eight Windows, ISBN: 1568582285 (Mai, 2002), 548 p., $17.95.


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