Monday, May 8, 2017

Jerome Charyn - Jerzy - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

Jerzy Kosinski was a great enigma of post-World War II literature. When he exploded onto the American literary scene in 1965 with his best-selling novel The Painted Bird, he was revered as a Holocaust survivor and refugee from the world hidden behind the Soviet Iron Curtain. He won major literary awards, befriended actor Peter Sellers (who appeared in the screen adaptation of his novel Being There), and was a guest on talk shows and at the Oscars. But soon the facade began to crack, and behind the public persona emerged a ruthless social climber, sexual libertine, and pathological liar who may have plagiarized his greatest works.

Jerome Charyn lends his unmistakable style to this most American story of personal disintegration, told through the voices of multiple narrators—a homicidal actor, a dominatrix, and Joseph Stalin’s daughter—who each provide insights into the shifting facets of Kosinski’s personality. The story unfolds like a Russian nesting doll, eventually revealing the lost child beneath layers of trauma, while touching on the nature of authenticity, the atrocities of WWII, the allure of sadomasochism, and the fickleness of celebrity.

My Review

Let me be perfectly honest. This is a challenging novel to review. It centers around the actual flesh and blood figure of Jerzy Kosinski, yet plenty of creative license is taken by author Jerome Charyn as he views Jerzy's life through an extremely imaginative lens. Fact blurs with fiction, yet Charyn still remains true to the man, capturing how Jerzy, himself, must have projected his concocted Holocaust survivor persona to the public.

Throughout the book, the different people in Jerzy's life provide insight into who they thought Jerzy was. Yet none of them get it quite right, only catching fleeting glimpses of the chameleon here and there. He amuses Princess Margaret so she invites him over. Comedian Peter Sellers becomes obsessed with him, determined to resurrect his acting career by bringing Jerzy's book, The Painted Bird, to the big screen. Charyn slyly adds this about the legendary Pink Panther, "[Sellers] had glanced into the novel's crazy mirror and seen himself."

However, familiarity becomes a double-edged sword. When Charyn has Jerzy counter with, "I can see that I'll have to be careful with you now, or you'll use my own words against me." The two indulge in a cat and mouse game until Jerzy finally grants Sellers the movie rights to the book, but egotistical Sellers is so thrown off his game having Jerzy on set that during filming he kicks him out, taking away any input Jerzy had in the production.

It's sad because even after achieving some degree of success, Jerzy is still "the little boy who sees himself as a changeling who has to avoid being picked to death by his own kind." In his tortured mind, he'll always be the painted bird, who sticks out like a sore thumb among the rich and famous. The Jew who doesn't belong. Not here, not there, not anywhere.

Falling into disgrace after being deemed a plagiarist later in life, Jerzy commits suicide, leaving behind the crowned royalty and Oscar winners he had so desperately tried to fit in with, but never really could. Charyn is the only one left to tell his story for him, and tell it he does.


Jerzy can be purchased at:
Barnes and Noble
Bellevue Literary Press

Prices/Formats: $16.99 ebook, $16.99 paperback
Genre: Historical, Jewish
Pages: 240
Release: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
ISBN: 9781942658146
Click to add to your Goodreads list.



CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from Jerzy.

About the Author

Jerome Charyn is the author of more than fifty works of fiction and nonfiction, including A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century, Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories, I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War, and The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel. Among other honors, he has been longlisted for the PEN Award for Biography, honored as a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, named a Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture, and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York.

Links to connect with Jerome:
Web Site


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  1. An interesting mix of narrators.

  2. A parable for our times? Trauma can cause 'splitting' disconnection and fantasy for sure .... sounds like an intriguing toxic read! Tx -) @bookblast