The title says it all: part autobiography, part Marxist screed, this fictional autobiography, first published in 1930, chronicles the life of the Gold family on New York’s Lower East Side in the decades around 1900. The cast of characters is a who’s who of seedy city life: schnorrers, prostitutes and slumlords.
Gold’s prose is primordial, stripped to the bone, yet the story takes unexpectedly tender twists, especially when relating the European childhood of the narrator’s parents. At times he seems to have forgotten why they had emigrated in the first place. The book’s message is clear, however: America has defeated the old-time religion of the author’s immigrant parents and has replaced it with the God of Capitalism.
Instead praying for the Messiah, Gold’s protagonist lyrically pines for the coming of the Workers’ Revolution. Take it or leave it, it’s worth reading for the punchy prose. With an introduction by Alfred Kazin.