Minimalist. Concise. Pulls no punches.
These could be three equally useful descriptions of Mark Carp’s novel “Segalvitz.” This is the story of a downtrodden young Jewish man in a city run by a powerful political machine who makes good through his moxie and his willingness to take risks. Carp’s spare writing technique does move the action along, and he does an excellent job incorporating the history of American politics from the late 1930s into the late 1960s. In this area, this novel is a good primer for those unfamiliar with the rough and tumble of machine politics and the effects of war.
The intersection of personal tragedy with the broader world quickens the pace of the storytelling, but it does not necessarily evoke strong emotion on the part of the reader. The Jewish angle is endemic to the story but does not drive it moralistically or religiously. The friction between Jew and gentile is addressed, as is intermarriage, but only in a peripheral way.
I found the novella difficult to put down, as I was interested to see how secrets and history played out in the title character’s life and in the lives of those he loved or befriended. However, the characters could have been developed more effectively. Perhaps Carp is trying to evoke the many struggles of the time and the myriad pressures on those trying to do good through his use of language. If so, he succeeded quite well.