Books: Lonely Cosmos

DUBIN'S LIVES by Bernard Malamud Farrar, Straus & Giroux 362 pages; $10

Author Bernard Malamud, 64, is a messenger who brings the bad news. His vision is firm and tragic, and a strain of Old Testament severity runs through his novels and short stories: all of his characters either know instinctively or must be taught that life is real, earnest and achingly impermanent. As a consequence, Malamud's career has earned him awards and formidable respect but produced little dancing in the streets. He is an author easy to admire and hard to love.

Dubin's Lives,...

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