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The Education of Arnold Hitler [Paperback]

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Item description for The Education of Arnold Hitler by Marc Estrin...

Marc Estrin's second novel is the story of a young man who stumbles through the second half of the 20th century bearing a most unfortunate name. At once a chess master, a linguist, an athlete and an innocent in love, Arnold passes through the racial tensions of Mansfield, Texas (home of the author of Black Like Me) in the 1950's, the anti-war movement at Harvard, and both the Upper East Side and the Bowery, meeting Noam Chomsky, Al Gore, and Leonard Bernstein in the process, and finally learning the meaning of meaning.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   454
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   1.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2005
Publisher   Unbridled Books
ISBN  1932961038  
ISBN13  9781932961034  

Availability  1 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 27, 2016 06:54.
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More About Marc Estrin

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Marc Estrin grew up in a small apartment so full of books you had to walk sideways in the hall. Of these, he read not one--till age sixteen, when he gave up his literary virginity to Franz Kafka: The Trial was his introduction to the larger life. This explains much. A mediocre student in high school, he was teased by his father into reading The Magic Mountain during the summer before college. Epiphany! The book was for him a topo-map of western thought and culture. With Mann as his guide, he sailed through college and grad schools, making a Hegelian leap out of graduate science into the richer, if iffier area of the arts. The Vietnam war and Bertolt Brecht were his siren callers into political activity, and his professional theater work dissipated into organizing, college teaching and communal living. When these ceased to put food on the table, he reached back into a past life to study and practice medicine. With the computer came the possibility of writing without retyping--a stimulus sufficient to have resulted in his current crop of manuscripts, published and unpublished.

Marc Estrin currently resides in Burlington, in the state of Vermont.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary

Reviews - What do customers think about The Education of Arnold Hitler?

An Interesting Picaresque  Mar 18, 2008
Arnold Hitler was raised in a town outside Dallas in the baby boom era, where apparently his surname didn't make a whole lot of difference to anyone until he got to Harvard, from which point on it was the scourge of his life. This factoid doesn't ring true to me, and it affected my enjoyment of this novel.

The novel works in three movements, one covering Arnold's parents meeting in Italy during World War II and ending with the end of his high school years; the second at Harvard from the late 60s to the early 70s and the last in New York in the year or so just after his graduation.

In the first movement, as stated, Arnold's surname is apparently irrelevant, as he witnesses the fight over school integration and the Kennedy assassination, and the triumphs and tribulations of high school love. He seems quite adrift, however, never really having much of a point of view; his strongest viewpoint seems to come from his decision to leave Texas and turn down numerous football scholarships (apparently at universities none of which cared about his surname in the slightest) to attend Harvard.

There, he participates in the Harvard Strike (but is denied entrance to University Hall because in the midst of the chaos of the protest the SDS doesn't want to risk headlines using his surname), can't get a date for much of his time in school (again, because of his surname) and starts acting in plays under a pseudonym (which would be impossible in a place as small as Harvard), where he falls in love with Leonard Bernstein's fictional daughter.

Left no money by his parents upon graduation, he ends up meeting a chess shark, who arranges his life in New York in the underworld (in one case literally) of the poor. Encountering Ariel Bernstein, though, he finds her father making a pass at him. Kicked out of his temporary housing in the Bowery, he ends up in an underpass under the Major Deagan Expressway next to the evocatively named Faile Street with an artist who makes her money as a stripper. He marries her at a wedding attended by the chess shark and his new lover, the former Music Director of the New York Philharmonic.

Parts of this book are well-written, and many are very evocative of the time and the place. Arnold's first girl friend and the way she both seduces and dumps him are sensitive and realistic. How Ariel got Arnold to spend a summer at Tanglewood by leading him on before she finally introduces him to her boyfriend is a cruel and manipulative scene that also rang true.

Other pieces of the book are hard to understand. His Jewish grandfather is still an Italian Jew; he speaks more like an Eastern European and trust me, there's a difference. He also, of course, speaks through Arnold's knee. How Arnold could have missed picking up the cultural themes that made the "Blasphemy" (a kosher hot dog wrapped in bacon and cheese) get its name is beyond me; Jewish culture would have been too pervasive at Harvard at the time for him to miss it. And his grandfather seems unconvinced that Hebrew National meets the laws of kashrut; trust me, they answer to higher authority. And it would have been impossible for a Harvard male student to guaranty that he could get into Whitman Hall when men first got to move to the Radcliffe Houses; the best he could have gotten was a chance to live in one of six South House dorms.

These are quibbles, though. The biggest problem is that so many opportunities just lay there. He was a witness to the Kennedy assassination, yet attending the same college as Kennedy nothing comes of that. He has a strong belief in desegregation, but Boston's racial segregation (which was a hot story during his time at Harvard) has no impact on him. He spends an entire year apparently with the name Hitler on the back of a Harvard football jersey with no visible impact, but the moment he quits football his name suddenly bars him from a social or political life. Someone needed to ask Estrin how he explained all that, because it leaves the reader baffled.

I enjoyed much of this novel, but in the end it wasn't better than three stars for all these reasons.
An Intellectual Forrest Gump....  Oct 10, 2006
That was surely Mr. Estrin's original pitch to his publisher, unfortunately, it falls flat on its face. Mr. Estrin writes well enough, and no one can say he lacks intelligence. The main problem with the book is that Arnold, while intelligent and good hearted (oh and HANDSOME! as Estrin repeats endlessly), is a cypher, with no personality of his own. For all the trouble Arnold has with his unfortunate last name, he never asks his father a simple question, "Dad, what's the origin of our last name?". Most Americans would respond to this question with an annoyed, "Dunno", which could have prompted an interesting episode where Arnold researches his name at a Mormon genealogy center. This would seem to be key question for intelligent (and HANDSOME) Arnold to ask but it never occurs to him. Many other tangents are also left unexplored. Arnold has an Italian-Jewish grandfather that he speaks to through his knee (sure why not), but he never takes the trouble to go meet him. Of course a trip to Italy might have taken space away from Estrin's philosophical musings and reverence for Leonard Bernstein. Arnold also lacks the courage of his convictions. Though he is anything but a racist or anti-Semite, having black and Jewish friends, he allows himself to be endlessly harassed by a fascist descendant of Cotton Mather as well as attends a skinhead Oi! performance with only mild discomfort. Estrin ends his book with Arnold living in a (somehow safe and dry) bunker at a construction site, seemingly no longer his own man but merely a vessel through which his stripper-artist girlfriend (later wife) Eve Brown (Eva Braun, clever eh??) enacts her bizarre notions of living as a Nazi to truly understand Nazism. The novel's ending comes suddenly and awkwardly which unfortunately, does not redeem either Arnold or Estrin.
satirical look at the power through negativism of labeling  Apr 19, 2005
During World War II in Italy American GI George Hitler met and married half Jewish Anna. Following the fall of his namesake, they move to his hometown Mansfield, Texas and have a son Arnold. They raise their son in a happy home and he turns out to be a genius.

By the late 1950s, six years old Arnold grows into a chess prodigy, but it is at a parade where he observes the impact of the use of the N word in his racist hometown that shapes him the most. He sees the hurt and the power that one word imbues in people. During high school he letters in football but his love remains linguistics and he publishes a popular newsletter on the subject. While he loses his girlfriend to radical feminism, Arnold enters Harvard where the anti ism movements converge but as often clash. He obtains a taste of the world, but sees it through a linguistic lens where words, names, and nomenclature have magic to destroy.

THE EDUCATION OF ARNOLD HITLER is a deep satirical look at the power through negativism of labeling people. Arnold is an intelligent Forest Gump though he plays on a lesser stage as he observes impacts starting with that 1956 parade and continuing through his life including ironically the effect of his last name on how people react to him. Although this is a deep linguistic look at how we use the potency of language to classify and demean others, the tale lacks a central plot; Marc Estrin uses anecdotal incidents to educate Hitler with rhetoric ruling this thought provoking novel that also become difficult to follow.

Harriet Klausner
"No trouble about my name before coming to Cambridge."  Apr 12, 2005
Focusing on the coming of age of Arnold Hitler, Marc Estrin follows Arnold's life from elementary school in Mansfield, Texas, in the late 1950s (where John Howard Griffin, the author of Black Like Me, did his experiment in racism in 1960), through high school in the 1960s, Harvard University in the late 1960s, and the tumult of the post-Vietnam era in the 1970s. Here Estrin explores the nature of identity--how we find our true identities, how our identities are shaped by those around us, and how false perceptions of our identities are developed by others.

In his early years, Arnold was the most popular, most successful student in his class, and when he became a football star in a town that lived for football, his reputation and adulation were secured. It was not until he received a scholarship to Harvard, and exposure to a wider world, that he experienced, firsthand, the prejudice that black students, recently integrated into his Texas high school, had taken for granted. Jewish students would not share a room with him, and East Coast WASPs rejected him. His success in Mansfield did not carry over to Harvard, where his unfortunate name became more important than his identity.

Estrin describes in often hilarious detail the day to day life of Arnold Hitler, always connecting him to the history of the period--the Tet offensive, the Harvard occupation of the administration building by the Students for a Democratic Society, the professors who gave seminars on how to avoid the draft, the Watergate scandal, and the My Lai massacre. He meets fellow Harvard student Al Gore, MIT professor Noam Chomsky, and Leonard Bernstein, father of one of his girlfriends. After graduation, he goes to New York, where his "education" in life's realities continues.

Estrin's episodic novel could have been a great collection of interrelated short stories. His keen observation of the world around him casts light on the period and on the inherent racism and prejudice against "otherness" which dominated, and he analyzes the period with a scalpel. Arnold himself does not engender much empathy, however, and his crises do not feel very compelling since the simple expedient of changing his name would have avoided them. His "epiphanies" feel artificial, and his exploration of religion and cultural history feels like a fiction writer's construct to give broader scope to the novel. Readers unfamiliar with the period from the late sixties to late seventies may gain insight into a seminal period in American history; for those who lived through it, it may feel a bit stale. (3.5 stars) Mary Whipple


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