Go to Homepage   John Blumenthal: What's Wrong With Dorfman?


Crescent Blues Book ViewsSt. Martin's Press (paper) ISBN 0312311885

For the sake of John Blumenthal's wife, I hope that protagonist Martin Dorfman reflects the author's neurotic imagination and not his personality.

Book: john blumenthal, whats wrong with dorfman
While waiting on tenterhooks for word from his agent about the sale of his latest screenplay, Dorfman develops a vague, nameless malady. Numerous visits to doctors, specialists, and assorted purveyors of alternative healing methods fail to yield a cure, or even a diagnosis.

Desperate for solace, if nothing else, Dorfman dances around his family-of-origin issues with his therapist, obsessively reads The Family Medical Guide when he should be working and strikes up a friendship with Delilah, a similarly afflicted patient he meets in a doctor's waiting room. He also ignores his wife and children, to the point of rendering them non-characters.

Dorfman gradually reveals the details of his childhood with his stereotypical German Jewish doctor dad, who incessantly exhorted young Martin to wash his hands and who now conserves electricity so assiduously he lives in darkness. Dorfman's therapist leads him ever-so-gradually to confront his feelings about his parents, while the medical types perform every imaginable test and prescribe every available drug to make his nausea, headaches, fatigue and general malaise subside.

Several questions propel the book forward: Did wacko dad Felix Dorfman abuse his son in some way? Will Martin Dorfman have sex with Delilah? Will his shadow of a wife take their unseen children and leave him? Will the screenplay sell? And most of all, did I correctly guess Dorfman's eventual diagnosis within the first five pages of the book?

Blumenthal ultimately answers all of these questions. But first he takes us on a journey through the tortuous process of selling a screenplay and seeing it become a movie…maybe. Dorfman's medical odyssey may seem familiar to readers who have been bounced from one physician to another in hopes of an explanation or a miracle. And his over-the-top pervasive Jewish angst may give readers Philip Roth flashbacks. Dorfman's self-absorbed, first-person, present-tense narrative comes across rather like a friend you have lunch with who keeps talking and talking, no matter how many times you look at your watch. This book should be read with tea and soda crackers close at hand. Or maybe matzo-ball soup.

A jack-of-all-genres, John Blumenthal also writes mysteries, non-fiction and apparently, screenplays. I hope he feels all right.

Jodi Forschmiedt

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