B. H. Friedman

B. H. Friedman

Friedman has written or contributed to fourteen previous books, including biographies and monographs. One of his six novels, Whispers, was recommended by William Gass for a National Book Award and, in 1979, was staged off-Broadway. Another, Museum, appeared in the first series of books published by the Fiction Collective. His most recent novel, The Polygamist, was enthusiastically reviewed; Ray Stark has bought the movie rights. Friedman’s biography Jackson Pollock: Energy Made Visible was selected by the American Library Association as one of the year’s Notable Books. Coming Close is a summation of Friedman’s work to date. It demonstrates how fine is the line separating fact and fiction.

Between the Flags (1990)

Coming Close (1982)

Museum (1974)

These wonderful stories are moving gifts from a writer who consistently and patiently delineates the world as it is. They should be read by everyone who loves fine writing.

Tom Huey

Between the Flags

B. H. Friedman

Between the Flags, by B. H. Friedman (FC2, 1990)

1990
Quality Paper
ISBN 978-0-932511-30-0

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Cool, elegant, pure, and yet surprisingly eccentric, the thirteen stories in Between the Flags explore contradictions of American experience since World War II. This retrospective of B. H. Friedman’s work begins with “As I Am I Will Be,” as its central character, Little Boy, faces civilian life after the war. It ends with the title story, in which a nameless man fights for his life against the sea and afterward realizes how little of his identity he carries away. Between these two periods — the forties and the eighties, youth and old age — are life stories filled with regret, humor, and subtle complications. They complement the stories collected in Coming Close (1982), also published by Fiction Collective.

Friedman’s characters struggle with the ways in which their lives are bounded. The desire to recover the sexual energy of youth propels one character into a confrontation with priapism. An art critic and the painter she made famous nourish and then finally consume each other’s talents. In “Whisper,” a man cherishes the anonymity that allows him to move freely in his pursuit of “zeros” (money). “Whisper,” a prescient parable for the eighties, was expanded into a novel and recommended for a National Book Award by William Gass. Except for “Reunion in Spain,” which is published here for the first time, all of these stories appeared previously in distinguished literary magazines.

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Between the Flags, his new volume of uncollected stories, is so energized, it may make you suffer a little. It will also make you laugh, make you think, and encourage you to re-experience its on-target metaphorical tales. As with the artists Friedman has always presented so thoughtfully, he’s got his fictional characters just right. You’ll find yourself saying, “Yes, yes!” These people are alive. And if you’re a writer, you may also find yourself saying, “God, I wish I had written that!”

Budd Schulberg

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These uncollected stories distill what Friedman fans have known all along: the man is way ahead of his time and the work as a whole is larger than its parts. Newcomers will discover that just as his novel Yarborough foretold the advance of the sixties drug culture, so did “Whisper” (later “Whispers”) anticipate years before “the avant-garde went into business” — the Reagan eighties and beyond.

David Michaelis

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These wonderful stories are moving gifts from a writer who consistently and patiently delineates the world as it is. They should be read by everyone who loves fine writing.

Tom Huey

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Whether the narrator is male or female — or young, middle-aged or moving toward a later stage — B. H. Friedman’s stories carry conviction. Some are traditional, some innovative; some come from the heart, others from the head. The hidden narrator, the author himself, gives us dimensions of the human psyche granted by time but rarely captured these days in works of fiction.

James McConkey

[Friedman] is way ahead of his time and the work as a whole is larger than its parts. Newcomers will discover that just as his novel Yarborough foretold the advance of the sixties drug culture, so did “Whisper” (later “Whispers”) anticipate years before “the avant-garde went into business” — the Reagan eighties and beyond.

David Michaelis

Coming Close

B. H. Friedman

Coming Close, by B. H. Friedman (FC2, 1982)

1982
Quality Paper
ISBN 978-0-914590-71-2

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Coming Close is what the author calls “alternative autobiographies” — four stories, each dealing freely with different, though sometimes overlapping, material through which we understand the complexity of a man’s life.

In the previously unpublished novella “Watching Father Die,” a son sees his father die — both as physical man and psychological symbol. At the same time, the son watches himself die, and cool rage balances warm compassion.

“Drinking Smoke” and “Moving in Place” have both been published in prestigious literary magazines — New American Review and The Hudson Review. Like the novella, each is concerned with an obsession. “Moving in Place” received a Fels Award of the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines as one of the five best stories of the year. Finally, “Choosing a Name” focuses on how a man who is nameless, though precisely identified in the first three stories, comes close to being B. H. Friedman. Altogether, the four stories reinforce one another to become a coherent, multi-faceted self-portrait.

… B. H. Friedman’s stories carry conviction. Some are traditional, some innovative; some come from the heart, others from the head. The hidden narrator, the author himself, gives us dimensions of the human psyche granted by time but rarely captured these days in works of fiction.

James McConkey

Museum

B. H. Friedman

Museum, by B. H. Friedman (FC2, 1974)

1974
Quality Paper
ISBN 978-0-914590-03-3

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This novel is both a love story and the history of the Skane family’s Museum of Living Art, as it changes from a small private museum into a large public institution, what Emerson called “the lengthened shadow of one man.” That man, that shadow, the museum’s founder, permeates the novel. Though long dead, his ideas, his wishes, his dreams struggle to stay alive in the consciousness of his son who sits on the museum’s board. The son’s relationship to his sister and other trustees is deeply experienced within the context of seemingly cold, businesslike board meetings and, outside the boardroom, in equally intense relationships with two women, a painter and an art historian, as he, on his own behalf as well as his father’s, resists the institutionalization of dreams.