Swans Commentary » swans.com July 4, 2005  



Who Needs Sophisms?
Marc Estrin's The Education of Arnold Hitler


by Milo Clark


Book Review



Estrin, Marc: The Education of Arnold Hitler, Unbridled Books, Denver, Colorado, 2005, ISBN 1-932961-03-8; 336 pages, $15.95


(Swans - July 4, 2005)  Having accepted a request to review a book, such as Marc Estrin's late-life and Talmudic tome, The Education of Arnold Hitler, I feel obliged to follow through.

Estrin's blurb picture suggests a 1960s escapee from Bensonhurst now, of course, de rigueur, d'accord, living in Burlington, Vermont. He plays cello in the local symphony. Espouses liberal causes, too. Took up writing at 57.

Arnold Hitler, akin to Estrin, is a bit of polymath. The book and, I suppose, their likely intertwined lives, slips into sophism much too easily. Perhaps, I should also say, into sophistry.

My fine eastern establishment education and pretensions to intellectualisms should prepare me for Estrin. Alas, I may have been away too long.

Arnold Hitler comes by his last name naturally. It is his father's last name. His father, George Hitler, in WWII Italy, threw a hand grenade into a building, naturally an old synagogue, blowing off a leg of Anna. In guilt and lust and such, he ends up marrying Anna and siring Arnold. Anna's father Jacobo, Jewish, naturally, becomes a mentor for Arnold through the device of knee communication. Don't ask. It is all perfectly natural.

Arnold grows up in Mansfield, Texas emerging in the turbulent 1960s as tall, handsome, erudite, athletic and wounded. He finds himself attractive to and attracted to monotonously brainy women who, naturally, are good looking and well into their sexuality as a bonus.

Harvard is his destiny fulfilled. There, as one may expect, being Texan and a Hitler are a bit much. His adventures take a nasty turn as a very brainy sociopath elects to complicate his life complexly.

Enter "Cliffie" Ariel Bernstein, svelte and sexy daughter of Leonard Bernstein, with whom Arnold enters into a fantasy life, naturally, although unrequited at the critical level of sexual engagement.

Ariel, however, exposes Arnold to all sorts of elegant situations, such as a summer as a parking lot attendant at Tanglewood. Daddy, under Ariel's urging, slips Arnold, incognito as Jake, into a Mahler performance chorus. Arnold's adventures incognito are a core device of the novel. The Bernstein's are central to the Jewish sub-plot.

Post-Harvard, Arnold attacks New York City. There he encounters new layers of quirky personalities. One of whom, Vdub, don't ask, is his guide into the bowels, quite literally, of the city. Bubbling up (down?) into Bowery, Bronx and Bruckner Boulevard, Arnold runs through a cast of characters of pure charade.

In an improbable plot twist, Arnold is found by a true love, Evelyn Brown, brainy, beautiful queen of the bizarre. They wrap themselves in each other, play out the Jewish sub-plot and marry with Ariel and Leonard applauding.

The last hundred pages are a blur. I sped-read my way to the end out of a sense of obligation. Maybe that should be a sense of challenge. I probably won't search out Estrin's first novel, Insect Dreams -- The Half Life of Gregor Samsa.

Sophisms, I no longer need. And, so proceeds the education of the reviewer.



· · · · · ·
Estrin, Marc: The Education of Arnold Hitler, Unbridled Books, Denver, Colorado, 2005, ISBN 1-932961-03-8; 336 pages, $15.95

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Internal Resources

America the 'beautiful' on Swans

Patterns which Connect on Swans


About the Author

Milo Clark on Swans (with bio).



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published July 4, 2005