Mandel Vilar Press book Max Baer and the Star of David, by author Jay Neugeboren, continues to impress. This week alone, MVPress received three new reviews:
“With Max Baer and the Star of David, Jay Neugeboren creates a pair of distinctive fictional characters and deposits them into the life of the legendary Depression-era boxer. The writing is strong and the characters memorable…. Despite the title, Baer is only a side character in the story. The book includes the key milestones in his boxing career—the fight that killed Baer’s opponent Frankie Campbell, the clash with German fighter Max Schmeling from which the book gets its title, the surprise loss to James Braddock…. But Baer’s life is mostly used to provide an outline for the story of Neugeboren’s fictional narrator, Horace Littlejohn…The real story…is Horace’s. He confronts family patterns and fights some important battles outside the ring. The author tells this story well.”—JEFF FLEISCHER, Foreword Reviews.
“Max Baer and the Star of David is a novel, nominally about its titular character, a boxer who wore a Star of David on his shorts and gave fatal blows to two fighters….The true hero of the book is imagination, which allows all characters escape from their lives. The facts behind the plot of the novel are true…Seeing all the real drama in this character’s life, it is hard to imagine what more a fiction writer could add. Jay Neugeboren, however, delivers expanded blows in prose….The book is much more than sports writing. Commentary on the Song of Songs is woven into its pages, as is discussion of love – both of the heterosexual and homosexual variety, sometimes by the same character, as well as interracial relationships. A blind character is in there too, as well as incest and disguised identities, which appear as themes….Even readers who don’t think themselves interested in sports will enjoy the descriptions and plot developments… For any reader who cares about good writing and imagination, lover of boxing or not, Max Baer and the Star of David is required reading."—BETH KISSILEFF, The Jerusalem Post.
"Author Jay Neugeboren is as unsettling as he is prolific. His latest novel, Max Baer and the Star of David, intertwines the historical with the fabricated. It tells the story of Max Baer, who became heavyweight champion of the world in 1934, and the fictional Horace Littlejohn, an early sparring partner of Baer’s and lifelong confidant…. Horace, the novel’s narrator, takes readers through the ins-and-outs of many Baer fights… Baer stood as a powerful American Jewish symbol of the growing war that would pit freedom against fascism. Small wonder that Jews identified with, and took pleasure in, Baer and his victory (although he had only one Jewish grandfather). At the same time, Neugeboren’s novel is fiction. The Littlejohns’ dialogue is lyrical and sophisticated, their speech intertwined with phrases from the Song of Songs. Baer, on the other hand, is a diamond-in-the-rough who sounds like Jake LaMotta in the film Raging Bull. Max Baer & The Star of David is counterintuitive in the way that Horace tells the tale of his sister and his best friend. Readers expecting a traditional account of the boxer’s life will be disappointed. But those who let their imaginations open up to this often-strange tale will find it both exciting and illuminating."—Sanford Pinsker, Hadassah Magazine.