writes that literature “values man byndescribing him”—a remark that smoothlynmediates berw’een literan’ realism andnconcern for morality. The men andnwomen described here inhabit life’snmargins. Retired, poor, grieving, theyn”suffer from [their] health,” as one ofnthem puts it, aphr-ase tliat makes “health”nsynonymous with being sick. Their ‘ulnerabilit)’nallows xMalamud to illustratenthe moral themes that fascinate him:ncharity, guilt, love, and fai±.nIn “The Bill,” a married couple whonown a store extend credit to a neighbornbecause “if you were a human being youngave credit to somebody else and hengave credit to you.” But the man whongets the credit resents them for it, feelsnguilty, and never pays his debt. Thenprotagonist of “Black Is My FavoritenColor” tries to extend charity and love tonblacks, who reject it or fail to return it.n”[T]he language of the heart is either andead language or else no one understandsnit the way you speak it,” henlaments. Nor are non-Jews the onlynproud ingrates, Jews faultlessly charitable.n”The Jewbird” is a parable aboutnJewish resentment of victimized Jews; inn”Man in the Drawer” an American Jewishnwriter resents the gift of a manuscriptnfrom a desperate Jewish colleague in thenSoviet Union.n1 he relation between giver and recipientnobtains in the relation between annartist and those who care for art ornbelieve they care. “Rembrandt’s Hat,”none of Malamud’s best stories, featuresnan art historian who thinks of a sculptor,n”All I have is good will toward him.” Justnso—but good wiU is not enough. Afternunintentionally offending the sculptornby comparing the artist’s hat to one in anRembrandt self-portrait, the historiannfeels “surges of hatred.” Months ofnfeuding pass before the historian takesnanother look at the Rembrandt painting.nIn liis self-created mirror [as distinguishednfrom mirrors held up bynhistorians and critics] the painternbeheld distance, objectivity paintednto stare out of his right eye-, but the leftnlooked out of bedrock, beyond qualit>’.nYet the expression of each of thenportraits seemed magisterially sad; ornwas this what life was if when Rembrandtnpainted he did not paint thensadness-‘nThe historian also notices a simple fact:nhe had misremembered Rembrandt’snhat, wliich does not closely resemble thenhat the sculptor wears. Those whonwould partake of what artists give usnmust learn empathy, not only judgment;nwithout empathy attention fails, causingninaccurate perceptions and false judgments.nThe historian reconciles with thensculptor, who wears his hat “like a crownnof failure and hope”—^failure, because henis no Rembrandt, hope for achievingnsomething fine.n”Art celebrates life and gives us ournmeasure,” Malamud writes. The celebrationnis no more direct in his stories thannin Rembrandt’s paintings. Guilt cannliterally bring death, as in “The JewishnRefugee,” the story of a German-Jewishncritic and journalist who believes that hisnGerman wife, left behind, was secretlynanti-Semitic, He commits suicide afternlearning that she had converted tonJudaism and was murdered by the nazis.nBut Malamud does not join withnNietzsche and his epigones in celebratingnhfe without guilt. “The Death of Me”nshows non-Jews who quarrel and whoncome to hate each other bringing deathnnnto a Jew. “Life Is Better Than Death”nironically portrays a young widownwhose affair ends in pregnancy andndesertion. Malamud’s most revealingntitle plays on a stock expression, “ThenCost of Living.” By describing the slownAmA uyceK-vJoDEOLi^nimpoverishment and bankruptcy of annold-fashioned grocer, Malamud insistsnon life’s physical and spiritual costliness.nCJnly a few of his people see whatnmakes life worth its cost: fidelity, thatncombination of faith and love. “The FirstnSeven Years” depicts the reciprocalnfideHty of a man and a woman by echoingnthe story of Jacob and Rachel. Fidelitynbetween human beings mirrors the evennmore difficult fidelity between a humannbeing and God. The theme of giving andnreceiving is here, too, as God gives lifenand the moral standards governing it,nforcing men to choose betweenngratitude and resentment.nMalamud sees both the humor and thenseriousness in this. “Talking Horse”nconcerns Abramowitz, a circus performernwho doesn’t know if he’s a talkingnhorse or a man trapped inside the horse,nand his owner, Goldberg, who “doesn’tnlike interference with his thoughts ornplans, or the way he lives, and no surprisesnexcept those he invents.” “Thentrue pain,” Abramowitz says, “is whennyou don’t know what you have to Imow,”nHe comes to suspect that “Goldberg isnillnSeptember 1984n