ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

A journal for poetry, criticism, reviews, stories and essays published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Miriam Kotzin's novel "The Real Deal," Brickhouse Books, Inc./Stonewall, 2012. Reviewed by Ricardo Nirenberg

Kotzin’s fist novel is political, realistic and of today, therefore – it clearly couldn’t be otherwise – cynical, acerbic and absurd.   The main character is Abe Featherman, a good-looking, glib and charismatic man who, when he was a boy, had asked his foreign-born zeydeh how he should classify himself, what sort of American he should be.  And his zeydeh had been very categorical: “You, mayn eyniklech, are a native American.”  In time, a capital N took over and somehow a hyphen got in between, so that Abe became a Native-American, and this pseudo-fact (but in politics the pseudo doesn’t add nor detract), in combination with his oratorical skills, catapults him to the Presidency of the U.S.A.

Teddy Roosevelt promised a “Square Deal,” FDR his “New Deal,” and Featherman the third, and as such the best, the “Real Deal.”  He described himself to the voters as a “Conservative Progressive,” an oxymoronic combination that appealed to the vast majority.  Kotzin puts it this way:

“Conservative Progressive was a gift.  No one asked to progress from what to what, or even to conserve what?  The answer might have been to conserve the progression, as Heraclitus would have it.  Featherman wrote a note to incorporate that idea into a speech, but he didn’t write his speeches.”

You can already tell that “The Real Deal” is a lot of fun to read; rare is the page where you won’t encounter sharp, dry, acid wit. My only complaint is that the evil ones, those Leviathans – the manipulators, political operators and monstrously rich donors who decide that Featherman won’t get a second term – do not, in the end, get their comeuppance as they deserve.  But then I’m a romantic and this, I already said, is a realistic novel, so the fault, if fault there is, is entirely mine.  A brilliant first novel.


Ricardo Nirenberg is the editor of Offcourse.

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