October 01, 1979 12:00 PM

by Geoffrey Wolff

“My father was a Jew. This did not seem to him a good idea, and so it was his notion to disassemble his history, begin at zero and re-create himself. His sustaining line of work till shortly before he died was as a confidence man.” The writer, a novelist and book critic, set for himself the most difficult task he could conceive—a detailed examination of his beloved father’s life as a liar, cheat and pseudosocialite. Wolff himself emerges as not all that likable, especially when, as an adult, he finds he can no longer bear his father. But if the author does not spare his subject, who died in lonely squalor, neither does he spare himself. This is a compelling, emotional and painful tour de force. (Random House, $12.95)

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