New York: Hybrid Global Publishing, 2021.
325 pp. $18.99 (paperback)

The Brooklyn Stories by Andrew Bernstein is, as the subtitle proclaims, “A Rousing Collection from New York’s Most Colorful Borough.” Bernstein’s love of and familiarity with the neighborhoods where he grew up contribute to the realism and vibrancy of his writing, and the intriguing characters and fascinating situations demonstrate the broad scope of his imagination.

The lead story, “The Clock Strikes,” is about a pair of brilliant university professors, separated in age by a generation, who had collaborated on numerous writing projects––most recently, a grand-scale historical novel. The work was to be the magnum opus of the older professor’s celebrated academic career, but when the younger man’s fiancée abandons him for the older man, the collaboration comes to a screeching halt. The older man continues to work on the masterpiece alone, but when he learns that he is dying of cancer and realizes he can’t complete it, he appeals to the younger professor for help. He’s the only other man in the world who knows the subject well enough to complete it, but he refuses to help. He still treasures the years they “had worked together, creating independently, critiquing each other’s work. . . . And this dream we had shared––so integral to each it was impossible now to remember who had originally conceived it” (11–12). But, betrayed by his former fiancée and his treasured mentor who “stole” her, he still feels the infidelity like an open wound. He sees himself as a “victim for whom the depth of his passion measured the depth of the betrayer’s guilt” (12).

Everyone who knew how the men had worked together––everyone important in the younger professor’s life––urges him to resume the partnership. The magnum opus had been his dream, too, and it would be a boon to the younger man’s career. But can he forgive and forget? Should he? Can he find a way to do justice to himself, to the woman he still loves, and to the eminent colleague he both resents and esteems?

Such conflicts––involving the passionate pursuit of values––are common themes in Bernstein’s fiction. In “Life Struggle,” a young man strives to finish graduate school and hold onto the woman he loves, despite his beloved but overbearing mother’s rejection of her. In “Making the Grade,” a college professor deals with the anguish of having a secret affair with a student. If their secret became known to the dean, it would end his academic career, but if he defended himself by denying the truth, he would lose the respect of his adult daughter. The story “Paid in Full” features a lawyer who despises “every form of bully, thug, and victimizing creep” (183). He’s had to settle for a less-than-prosperous law practice while proudly building a reputation for defending only clients he genuinely believes to be innocent. When a goon he refuses to defend learns a damning secret and threatens blackmail, the lawyer is confronted with an agonizing conflict that could destroy his marriage as well as his professional reputation.

Conflicts of this type are what make a story, according to the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand (one of Bernstein’s primary influences). . . .

The Brooklyn Stories offers hours of enjoyable reading. @andyswoop is a “Jack of all genres,” but his talent with short stories is exceptional.
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1. Ayn Rand, “Basic Principles of Literature,” in The Romantic Manifesto (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1970), 65.

2. Ayn Rand, “Theme and Plot,” in The Art of Fiction, Tore Boeckmann, ed. (New York: Penguin Putnam, 2000), 17.

3. Angelica Walker-Werth, “Individualism in Anthem, Jane Eyre, and The Giver,” The Objective Standard 19, no. 1 (Spring 2024): 45.

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