Magazine article World Literature Today

Last Word

Magazine article World Literature Today

Last Word

Article excerpt

Jonathan Blum. Last Word. Iowa City. Rescue Press (SPD, distr.). 2013. isbn 9780988587335

One aspiration of many writers is to maintain a comical thread throughout a serious work. Jonathan Blum is just such a writer. In his debut book, the 2013 novella Last Word, Blum escorts the reader deep inside a well-to-do Jewish family's Florida home, where the parents struggle to inculcate their three children with a wholesome Jewish upbringing, and their children present them with . . . well, let's call them great challenges.

The story's narrator is the father of the family, Kip Langer, a successful orthognathic surgeon who obviously loves his two daughters, Renata and Mina, and his thirteen-year-old son, Eric (the child from a previous marriage), but he doesn't really understand them. Eric, alienated, overweight, technophile that he is, doesn't make family relations easier when he brings everyone down the rabbit hole of his teenaged angsty, ill-conceived escapades. The story unfolds as a simple family tale and soon ends up with the reader not knowing just how far the kids can go, while the two dumbfounded parents stand near-paralyzed as they pull their hair out in frustration.

So what happens to cause such parental consternation? Without giving too much away, suffice it to say the boy isn't happy with his life, and he wants to pay the school, its faculty and staff, the students, and even the other students' parents-every single one of them-back. How to do this? Computers, obviously. Blum deftly spotlights our technologycrazed world and exposes contradictions all of us face-moral, spiritual, and identity based-and does so without ever losing the seriousness, even while we laugh out loud.

It's somewhat of a tradition to look at American life through rosecolored glasses, and parents have long been on the forefront of this tendency. …

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