Page 45 Review by Stephen
As Ellis pointed out, Eisner is at his best when he's dealing with the callous or the corrupt, and this is full of both parties.
The name of the game is Marriage, usually for social or financial advantage, rarely in this book for love; on the sole occasion it is, social and financial advancement destroy it anyway.
The Arnheim name, with its substantial Jewish heritage ('old' money, from the second wave of immigrants between 1820 and 1840), draws families into its New York city circle, then drags them down beneath its monolithic weight. Here we witness three generations of an increasingly fucked-up family, spoiled by the riches of the past whilst failing to match the entrepreneurial energy and discipline which garnered them in the first place. The hard graft may continue, but at the expense of any decent set of priorities, responsibility or basic kindness as successive heirs chase and worship their status, indulging themselves whilst abusing their wives and neglecting their children. Bigotry within their own circles, towards those they deem socially inferior (Russian Jews are all thieves - obviously), coupled with a desperation to be accepted by Gentiles, is so deep-seated and prevalent, it oozes self-loathing, and even the countryside isn't entirely innocent of the same social climbing.
Eisner, more prolific in his mature years than ever, had been offering us slim volumes towards the end of his life which, in the shadow of the mighty TO THE HEART OF THE STORM and DROPSIE AVENUE, had by comparison failed to do much more than retread old ground. They'd been good, but not great, and I was somewhat worried this would continue the trend. It didn't, nor did the subsequent PLOT: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION. Yes, NAME OF THE GAME is another Jewish family tree, yes marriage is an obsession, there's superficiality and hypocrisy, possessive mothers and errant sons, but this a big read on a grand scale, with prose binding it together, and the gentleman in Eisner has finally cracked enough to deliver a work in which the mental cruelty and physical violence stand naked enough to be frankly shocking, especially coming from the venerable Will. You know those books you just can't put down? This is one of them.