The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Reviewed: June 20, 2005
By: Mordecai Richler / narrated by Paul Hecht
Publisher: BTC Audio Books
4 1/2 hours on 4 CDs, $0.00
BTC Audio Books spring
from the studio recordings done for CBC's nightly book broadcast, Between
the Covers. Some of the material that Gooselane editions has sent me to listen
to has been brand new, but there is also a wealth of recorded material in
the CBC archive, and this presentation of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
is one of those, having been adapted for radio by the author back in 1980.
Even at that point it had been 20 years since the book first appeared, so
a package like this is long overdue.
You won't like Duddy.
He's a Jewish Holden Caufield without any of the redeeming qualities. It's
no wonder. His father is a cab driver/pimp with pretensions who affectionately
favours his older brother, Lenny, and tells his beer buddies this about his
younger son, "Naw, He's not gonna be a sawbones. Duddy's a dope like
me, aren'tcha kid?"
At home he has his
grandfather who, no matter how well things may be going in the family, is
never satisfied, for to his Old World way of thinking, "A man without
land is nothing."
So Duddy, who we meet
as a preteen and follow for 15 or 20 years, grows up looking for the main
chance, looking out for number one, looking to find a way to raise a stake
and buy some land in order to become a Somebody.
His role models are
scam artists, crooks and drug smugglers, and he even serves as an unwitting
drug mule for one of Montreal's big time criminals during one memorable trip
to New York City.
As he gets older (I'm
not sure the phrase "grows up" would apply to him) Duddy becomes
involved with a succession of get rich quick, easy money schemes that turn
out to be anything but either. He is a one-man pyramid operation who collapses
on himself with depressing regularity and never seems to learn better.
Paul Hecht gives us
great reading of a fascinating story, but the book is ultimately frustrating
because its central character is so incapable of getting past his imprinting.
While there are times when he can rise above himself and show moments of true
greatness in dealing with his family and friends, mostly he can't seem to
see beyond the next trick, and he always used his ends to justify his means.
This is a good performance
of a worthy novel, but it's not a story that will leave you feeling good about
the state of humanity.