Invisible mending : a novel

by Frederick Busch

Hardcover, 1984




Boston : D.R. Godine, 1984.


Zimmer's wife, Lil, says their love is dead. He says it's just tired. Divorcing, he feels as if his whole love life is passing before him - and then part of it really is, in the still-sexy person of old flame Rhona Glinsky. In interlocking flashbacks set against the backdrop of New York City, Busch lets his hapless hero tell his story of the angst-driven complications of both licit and illicit love. It was Greenwich Village in the Sixties, and Zimmer was writing copy for a sleazy PR agency. Rhona was a voluptuous Nazi-hunting librarian who taught him introductory love and guilt and drove him into the arms of the tall blonde shiksa Lillian. And now, twenty years later, the middle-aged Zimmer is proving that opposites still attract, by falling in love - again - with both of them.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member TimBazzett
There is almost too much going on in this novel to take it all in. And it seemed a bit un-Busch-like. At least in terms of the Busch books I have thus far read, perhaps a dozen by now. In fact, if I had to compare this particular novel to another, it might be PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT. But wait, in case
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you're not a Philip Roth fan, Busch's man, Zimmer, is much more appealing (likeable) than Alexander Portnoy every was. There is that self-deprecating humor typical to Busch, that was so seldom found in Roth. And yet there is that graphic sexual detail here, in the manner of Roth's Portnoy. Hmm... Wonder if Busch was a Roth fan.

Another rather atypical Busch device here are the rapid jumps back in forth in time and place. As Rhona Glinsky, one of Zimmer's lover puts it -

"You live in sixteen different time zones at once ... you're seven, you're forty, you're a thirteen-year-old cupcake of a Boy Scout ... You're always in more than one place. Time, I mean. Well, place too. You should stand still, Zimmer. Not that I don't love the stories. Really. I do."

Me too - I love the stories, but they do tend to get a bit confusing here and there. As a reader, you really have to stay on your toes to follow the thread of INVISIBLE MENDING. But if I've followed that thread accurately, the book's time frame actually only covers a couple of days, with many flashbacks, with all those stories, and all the lovers (and one wife) Zimmer has had - and has. Lemme see, there were Madeleine, Rhona, Lillian (the blonde shiksa wife), Sally, and then there's Rhona again, eighteen years later. And, as mentioned, all kinds of sex too, which seems odd, given that Zimmer characterizes himself as rather fat and very nearsighted.

There is also much confusion here about Zimmer's Jewish-ness, mostly because his parents raised him in a very secular manner, which, while you'd think it might have made him very liberal and broad-minded, actually just, well, confused him.

Busch as always knows how to set a scene and describe an era, from Zimmer's college years in the late fifties on the campus of a rural Lutheran school, to the Greenwich Village of the 60s and 70s. Those mean streets come alive in all their gritty nastiness, right down to the drunk in a Haloween costume who exposes himself to Zimmer and Rhona in front of the "Invisible Mending" tailor shop.

While Busch's deft storyteller's touch is undimmed, the constantly shifting times and places are not quite as seamlessly executed as the book's title might suggest. Even so, I'll give INVISIBLE MENDING four and a half stars.
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