Totempole (NYRB Classics)
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Totempole is Sanford Friedman’s radical coming-of-age novel, featuring Stephen Wolfe, a young Jewish boy growing up in New York City and its environs during the Depression and war years. In eight discrete chapters, which trace Stephen’s evolution from a two-year-old boy to a twenty-four-year-old man, Friedman describes with psychological acuity and great empathy Stephen’s intellectual, moral, and sexual maturation. Taught to abhor his body for the sake of his soul, Stephen finds salvation in the eventual unification of the two, the recognition that body and soul should not be partitioned but treated as one being, one complete man.
of Hippolytus’ hymn: . . . dear lady, from a hallowed hand receive this garland for thy golden hair, for I am favored as no other man to be with thee and even speak with thee, hearing thy voice, though seeing not thine eyes. “Stevie,” Fu said softly. For a moment it seemed to Stephen as if Artemis herself had spoken, and he raised his head expectantly. “Gummie told me you were here. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” Seeing Fu crouching down beside him, her hair upswept in a chignon, her
steel. “Donwayah,” Roger mumbled, turning over in his sleep. What was that? Was Roggie . . .? Stephen, who had been about to take a step, froze in the shadows like a heron. After waiting an eternity, he let out his breath, tiptoed to the door, turned the knob, and stepped arthritically into the hall. At least it’s winter still, he thought, noticing that the door to his parents’ room was closed. What if it were June and they had left it open for the breeze? Stephen clenched the magnet in his
could just make out bony hands reaching through the darkness to clutch him by the throat. Finally, he couldn’t stand the strain another minute and fled from the foyer, through the dining room, into the kitchen. As always, Clarry had left her door ajar and he could hear her heavy breathing. Cautiously, quietly, Stephen poked his index finger against the door and it swung halfway open. He could see the big mounds of Clara’s blanketed body. He liked Clarry’s room more than any other in the
to be able to swim the three-quarters of a mile across Micmac Pond; in order to achieve the supreme status of Dolphin the camper had to swim to the opposite shore of the Pond and back. During his first summer Stephen passed the Minnow test with no difficulty, but refused to try for Perch until the following summer, when he became one on his second attempt. Immediately thereafter, he tried for Bass. Roger had been a Bass since the first week of their second summer, and Stephen felt challenged to
must sleep under the lean-tent with the other counselors.” “I won’t have another nightmare, I promise.” “It isn’t that, but I must be where everyone can find me in case of emergency.” Marvin wanted to tell the doctor that this was an emergency but hurried over to Freddie Blum instead. “Freddie, can I share your tent with you?” “Sorry, Marv, I promised Jack.” Finally, Marvin rushed up to Harold Herman. “Harry, can I share—” “No, I’m sharing with Dave.” Marvin looked around him frantically.