David Lazar is a fictionalized memoir. Many of the key achievements in the main character’s life are similar to the author’s life from being a sports handicapper to writing a book about racism. Of course, it’s is still fiction. Otherwise, the cops will be knocking on Robert Kalich’ door one of these day. David Lazar is an old man with a young wife and a son in high school. In his eighties, he’s feeling the pinch of mortality and has reached that stage that Erik Erikson described as Ego Integrity vs. Despair. That time when older folks take stock of their life and decide whether it was all worth it. The am I a success, am I a failure, am I a good person interrogation of their lives.
Lazar had many advantages. His father was a cantor and he went to college. He had a rich life, even though he didn’t have money. He had social connections. He has several relationships with women, one formative one with the lust of his life, Leslie Kore. When she left him, he made the I’ll-Show-You decision to get rich and show her. He took his deep knowledge of sports and developed a handicapping system based on knowing all the stats and playing the averages. Illegal sports betting is still a criminal activity that put him in daily contact with made men and mob bosses.
Now he struggles with the thought of telling his wife and son who he really is, the real warts and all Lazar. Could they love him?
I struggled to finish David Lazar and in a cruel kind of irony, that is because Kalich did such a good job of creating the voice of this old man reviewing his life. You see, when people do this, they don’t do it with a linear narrative. They repeat some stories and phrases. They go along telling some anecdote then suddenly jump decades ahead or behind with something unrelated, though perhaps connected in some way in their head. There’s stream of conscious rambling and then there is literary stream of consciousness, one that has a hidden discipline that keeps it on track. There was no discipline in this book and it made it frustrating to read. But, I will admit I could actually hear David Lazar in my head.
I received a copy of David Lazar from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.