The Street Sweeper [Ebook]
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|Format:||Electronic Book Text, 576 pages|
|Published In: ||Australia, 28 September 2011|
From the scars of the civil rights struggle in the United States to the crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau, there are even more stories than there are people passing each other every day on the crowded streets of any major city. Only some of these stories survive to become history. Adam Zignelik, an almost 40-year-old untenured academic historian at New York's Columbia University, is the son of a prominent American civil rights lawyer and an Australian mother. One of his late father's closest friends had been the African American civil rights activist, William McCray. Since the death of Adam's parents it is the McCray family - William, his son Charles (Chair of History at Columbia) and Charles' wife - that has become Adam's adopted family. With Adam's career and his relationship with his long-time girlfriend in crisis, he gets a suggestion for a promising research topic from William McCray, who is a World War II veteran, that just might save him professionally and even personally. Entirely fortuitously, Charles McCray's wife's cousin, Lamont, recently released from prison and working as a hospital janitor, strikes up an unlikely friendship with a patient, an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor and former member of the Sonderkommando (those prisoners forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi extermination camps). Two very different paths - Adam's and Lamont's - lead to one greater story as The Street Sweeper, in dealing with memory, racism, genocide and the human capacity for guilt, resilience, astonishing heroism and unexpected kindness, spans the 20th century to the present and the globe from New York to Melbourne, Chicago, Warsaw, Berlin and Auschwitz.
About the Author
Elliot Perlman is the author of the award-winning novel Three Dollars, The Reasons I Won't Be Coming (a collection of award-winning stories), and the novel Seven Types of Ambiguity.
It s been eight years since Elliot Perlmans last novel, Seven Types of Ambiguity, was released. Unlike renowned American literary critic Harold Bloom, I was unimpressed by that book, thinking that it failed, with its tricky structure and rather mundane plot, to capitalise on the great promise shown by Perlmans first book--the enticing Three Dollars. But Perlmans latest, The Street Sweeper, restores my faith in his work. It is, I think, a fine novel written by an author comfortable in his capacity to tell stories that seek to inform as well as entertain. Set in New York City, the book follows two characters in crisis as they try to move through lives riven with events beyond their control. Lamont Williams has been recently released from prison after serving six years for a crime in which he played an incidental, if not unintentional role. He is starting a job as a probationary janitor at a cancer hospital in New York. He wants to get his life back on track: keep his job; find a place to live; try to find his estranged daughter. Adam Zignelik is an expatriate Australian historian, whose career at the prestigious Columbia University is about to be terminated due to underperformance. This lack of momentum in his life causes him to break up with his long-term partner, Diane, in a misguided attempt to save her, and any potential offspring, from his lacklustre life. From these beginnings, Perlmans narrative spins wider and wider, encompassing greater and greater themes with profound moral and social import. In this, I think Perlman is an old-fashioned kind of writer. He seeks to both entertain and to teach, with long passages on the civil rights movement, the law, the Holocaust and (surely a nod to Kevin Rudd) Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In this book, Perlman has also taken a risk. The novel is very much set in New York and follows a great tradition of novels set in and about that city. His knowledge about, not only the city, but the broad sweep of American history may, dare I say, put some native American authors to shame. This is just one of his tricks, however. Stylistically, the novel is intricate and engaging. The narrative constantly cycles through events, times, character traits- building each moment on top of the last, before revisiting it only to expand further outward. This is a compelling novel, filled with detail, for sure, but very serious in its purpose to make us think about the world a little more fully, a little more deeply. Look out for it in awards lists, both here and overseas. (See interview, page 28.) Shane Strange is an ex bookseller and writer who teaches writing at the University of Canberra
|Publisher: ||Random House Australia|