In an enticing review in the New York Sun, Ruth Franklin says that Philip Davis's new bio of Bernard Malamud captures the writer's "gift for depicting the extraordinary in the ordinary," but questions Davis' occasional judgements:
Mr. Davis claims that Malamud was "using adultery, imaginatively, to support marriage," but this does not quite ring true. Similarly unconvincing is his argument that "Dubin's Lives," Malamud's fifth novel (apparently inspired by one of his affairs), is the writer's masterpiece. In fact, the years of Malamud's deepest personal troubles were also his most fallow years creatively.
It's been years since I even looked at it, but I remember Dubin's Lives rather fondly; it's in that small group on novels, like Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight or A.S. Byatt's The Biographer's Tale, that are about the whole idea of biography, of what devoting your life to capturing someone else's story says about your own -- particularly this character Dubin, who is working on a biography of D.H. Lawrence, and whose unhappily married middle age is livened up by an affair with a young student.
Is it reading in too much to say that Malamud, like the recent Roth, gave his fictive self some great sex? Probably.
I can't say whether the book is Malamud's greatest, but the news that someone thinks so intrigues me.
P.S. I wonder if the Davis book reveals anything new, or if the book by Malamud's daughter beat him to the punch