A matchmaker finds love for a would-be rabbi; a shopkeeper dies because he cannot afford a doctor; a little girl steals candy; an angel visits a grieving tailor. Through Malamud's great gifts as a writer - humour and profound concern for the matter of human life - he transmutes the particular struggles of everyday sufferers into a strange poetry.
No crude summary can convey the subtleties of these stories, in which the paradox of guilt and happiness, the irony of good intentions and all human struggles against suffering are suggested sometimes by a single poetic image, a juxtaposition of gross trivialities with romantic and mystical thoughts... He is not only an original but a passionately honest writer
His is a master of an alchemy whereby the grossest reality is converted to the most imaginative uses. He transcribes everyday life and yet the result glows with lights never seen on land or sea.
There are thirteen stoires in The Magic Barrel and every one of them is a small, highly individualized work of art. This is the kind of book that calls for not admiration but gratitude
Funny and tragic and true to humanity
Is he an American Master? Of course, he not only wrote in the American language, he augmented it with fresh plasticity, he shaped our English into startling new configurations.