Michael Halberstam’s ‘The Wanting of Levine’: An Uncanny 1970s Political Novel Worthy of Rejuvenation

In this guest blog post, Warren Adler discusses Michael Halberstam’s novel The Wanting of Levine, a neglected political novel that uncannily predicted today’s America

Any serious novelist worth their salt fantasizes that their work will endure beyond their lifetime.  As both an earnest practitioner of the novelist’s art and a lifetime student of classic literature, I am always heartened when I learn about a novel written decades ago, long buried from public view, that suddenly pops into the public consciousness offering remarkably pertinent moral and psychological insights that eerily reflect contemporary events and concerns.

There is no easy explanation for a novel’s comeback.  If one looks closely at the historical record of once popular novels, as measured by the bestseller lists, one sees a startling lack of endurance. They enter with a shout and, for the most part, exit in barely a whisper. The trigger that signals a novel’s rejuvenation is mysterious, magical and unpredictable. I am reminded of Henri Beyle, a Frenchman writing under the nom de plume of Stendhal who dedicated his novel The Red and the Black to the ‘happy few’ as if divining in advance the lack of contemporary readers of this novel which deals with the universal themes of the addictive and often destructive nature of ambition and love. His not too subtle dedication was correct. What he could not predict was the endurance of his novel, which has become one of the great classics of French literature.

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