"I killed people before I kissed a girl," Kaniuk says right at the beginning of the book. He was 17 when he fought in the War of Independence, was wounded, cut himself off completely and began to paint, but knew no peace of mind. After the war, he joined the crew of an immigrant ship bringing Holocaust survivors from Europe to the newly founded state of Israel. Then left for Paris and went from there to New York. The book tells of his ten years in the United States, among the bohemians of New York in the 1950s. These were stormy, intensive years in American cultural life. Kaniuk was there alongside culture heroes like Charlie Parker, Billie Holliday, Frank Sinatra, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder, Marlon Brando, James Dean and Robert De Niro the artist, father of the noted actor. The novel is written in jazz tempo that dictates how those colorful memories and fascinating characters are presented - some of the characters were consumed by the fire with which they lived their lives, for along with art came drugs, alcohol and casual sex. Kaniuk himself washed dishes and waited on tables in a black jazz club in Greenwich Village, where he was paid to applaud, to wash windows and paint murals. Although he painted intensively, sold pictures and spent all the money, and exhibited his work in galleries and museums, he did not find himself through painting, so he decided to write. Women were attracted to him and he to them, and he married the dancer Lee Becker. After a few years of making each other miserable, they divorced.
Kaniuk captures the spirit of the time. He maps the city that was, which perhaps exists only in his mind. This could be the real America.
A masterwork of technical virtuosity and tough sentiment… An essential novel about boho New York, this is not to be missed.
Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Kaniuk's memoir is an unforgettable telling of the 1950s… This memoir is unbelievable—literally unbelievable.
Kaniuk writes about his time in New York like a permanent dance above the abyss as jazz engulfed him and ran into his blood.