Life on Sandpaper
Susan Sontag writes: “Of the novelists I have discovered in translation . . . the three for whom I have the greatest admiration are Gabriel García Márquez, Peter Handke, and Yoram Kaniuk.“
A whirlwind of art, music, and lust, Life on Sandpaper is Yoram Kaniuk’s overwhelming autobiographical novel detailing his years as a young painter in the New York of the ‘50s. Wounded and alienated, a war veteran at the age of nineteen, Kaniuk arrives in Greenwich Village at its peak period of artistic creativity, and finds his way among such giants as Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Willem de Kooning, and Frank Sinatra. In terse prose, inspired by the associative and breathless drive of bebop, Kaniuk’s memories race between the ecstatic devotion of his beloved Harlem jazz clubs, through the ideological spats of the dying Yiddish world of the Lower East Side, to the volcanic gush of passion, pain, art, dance, alcohol, and drugs that was Greenwich Village. Kaniuk’s stories roll and tumble here with hypnotic urgency, as if this were his last opportunity to remember, and tell, before all is obliterated.