Cover image for Belmondo style
Belmondo style
Berlin, Adam, 1966-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2004.
Physical Description:
275 pages ; 22 cm
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Jared Chiziver is a single father and professional pick-pocket, devotee of Jean-Paul Belmondo and foreign films, and a suave ladies' man. His son Ben is sixteen, a bookish semi-introvert, a star on his school's track team, college bound and gay. Their unusual but quiet and affectionate life in New York City's Greenwich Village is ripped asunder by two singular events. First, Jared finally meets 'the one,' Anna, a photographer of criminals and death scenes - a woman he finds endless engaging. Second, in response to a brutal attack upon his son Ben, Jared breaks his own cardinal rule and commits the big crime, the one that draws the unflinching attention of the police. The only response possible to these events is to leave New York one step ahead of the police and embark upon a journey of both escape and discovery that will irrevocably change their lives. Told from the point of view of the too-wise and too-adult Ben, Belmondo Style is an unforgettable tale which movingly explores the bonds between an unusual father and a remarkable son.

Author Notes

Adam Berlin is the author of the novel Headlock . His stories and poems have been published in numerous journals including the Notre Dame Review, Bilingual Review, Greensboro Review, Northwest Review, Washington Square and Other Voices . He received his MFA from Brooklyn College, teaches writing at Columbia University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and lives in Manhattan.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Berlin follows Headlock (2000) with another stylish, atmospheric tale, this time about a single father who is a professional pickpocket and his bookish teenage son, Ben.ared Chiziver is an expert thief who sticks to stealing small and has never been caught. He is also a player with a string of women behind him, doesn't like to plan too far ahead, and is enamored of the film Breathless. He regularly cadges Belmondo's moves and offers Ben advice in the form of film dialogue. Their close relationship and offbeat lifestyle are threatened after Ben is viciously attacked for kissing a male lover, andared seeks revenge. In addition,ared seems to have fallen in love with a beautiful photographer named Anna. The three hit the road together for a recuperative vacation in Miami, but when their funds start to run low,ared begins to think about stealing big. Although the plot has a few gigantic holes, it hardly seems to matter. With its macho staccato language and riveting characters, this novel is all about mood and motion. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A father and son with an unusually close relationship wrestle with a hardscrabble life in Manhattan and the consequences of crime in Berlin's thoughtful, somewhat stagy second novel (after Headlock). Ben Chiziver, a bright sophomore at prestigious Stuyvesant High School, only wants the best for himself and his father, Jared, a handsome "player" with the ladies. Father and son jog together, eat together and have heart-to-heart talks about life, love and school. But there's a twist: Dad pays for their West Village apartment by picking the pockets of tourists and businessmen. Around the same time that Jared stops playing the field and falls for Anna Partager, a photographer of dead people, Ben has his first homosexual encounter, with a boy he meets on a solo run one night. This leads to a grisly bashing incident and lands Ben in the hospital, driving his father to commit a brutal act of vengeance. The attack dictates an immediate "vacation" for Jared, Ben and Anna to Miami, ramping the plot into overdrive as the robbery of an armored truck is planned and skillfully executed. But when the three escape to Key West, their luck finally runs out. For all the character-driven, on-the-run entertainment the novel affords readers, it feels as if Berlin has yet to display the full force of his narrative abilities. Intelligent and promising, this sharp, simmering sophomore effort feels like the calm before the storm. Agent, Robert Lescher. (Mar. 9) Forecast: Crossover sales to the gay market should help move copies of this deserving novel. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



PART ONE BREATHE OUT 1 My father was a player. Sometimes, the next morning, the woman sitting at our breakfast table would talk to me like she knew me. Maybe she thought a maternal show towards his kid was the way to win my father forever. It wasn't. My father would tell whatever woman was sitting there, her legs crossed, usually, coffee cup in her hand, usually, that he had to get me ready for school and what could she say to that? I always got myself ready for school, but the line was perfect. Not delivered mean or impatiently, just as a matter of fact. So the woman would go into my father's room, take off his bathrobe, get dressed in her own clothes, now wrinkled and looking very much like last night's outfit, and she would leave. Some of the women kissed him good-bye in front of me and if the kiss went on too long I would watch my father's hands gently push them away. His hands could go very gentle when he wanted them to. Some of the women scribbled a phone number down or put a business card flat on the table with a hopeful click of paper against wood and told my father to call and he'd smile that small smile of his that was more in his eyes than his mouth like the world was a game. I was a perfect prop for his lifestyle, but I wasn't a prop at all. Not really. I'd get ready for school. He'd make his bed. I'd gather my books and he'd walk me to school when I was very young and then, when I was older, he would walk me to the subway, kiss my cheek, tell me to have a good day. A line of women. That's how I pictured them, a long line stretching from the front door of our walk-up apartment and down the stairs and out, along Bedford Street until it hit Seventh Avenue and then downtown, the bodies diminishing in size and disappearing into the horizon. The World Trade Centers had once broken the view, holding solid, looking like two steel pillars thrust into Manhattan to keep it from floating away, but they were gone. The horizon became both more open and less open and my father continued to meet women. We started that January together, a new year and a new morning. I had been at a friend's house for a party and a bunch of us had spent the night drinking alcohol snuck in from various up0parental liquor cabinets and smoking stolen packs of cigarettes on a Park Avenue terrace. My friend James Worthen was a rich kid and his parents let him roam freely, didn't complain when smoke came out of his room or when the noise of teens jostling for prime floor positions, an excuse to tackle and horse around, became too loud. The Worthen apartment was a duplex with an actual spiral staircase and a wrap-around balcony on the top floor that offered relatively unobstructed views of the East River on one side and Central Park on the other, the tops of trees looking foreign in the middle of concrete and brick. In the summer, in full bloom, I always thought they looked like the heads of broccoli. That January there were no leaves, only branches, almost the color of concrete but not quite, retouched by the shadows they cast on the hard ground below, creating their own lighting effect. We drank and talked and watched the New Year's ball drop on TV and talked some more and made some prank phone calls to revelers too drunk to hang up immediately and a few of the guys hooked up with a few of the girls. I spent the end of the night listening to James. I wasn't interested in what he was saying, but I liked his voice. It was deep and soothing and I just took his voice into my head, the sound, not the words. His voice made me want to close my eyes and go to another place. In the morning, on the walk home, my legs were heavy. I stayed in shape between cross-country season and track season by running the streets of Manhattan, but that morning I was tired. My father was sleeping on the couch. The wastebasket had been pulled next to him, a plastic bag from D'Agostino's stuffed inside in case he puked. I hated his hangovers, but it was New Year's Eve. Everyone had a right to be hungover. I walked quietly past him, past his bedroom where the outline of another body lay, and into my room. I closed the door and slept until the afternoon. When I got up, my legs rested and springy, my father was sitting on the couch, watching TV, the wastebasket back in place, the plastic bag removed. I didn't even have to look. I knew the woman was long gone. "How was your New Year's eve?" I said. "My New Year's eve was a lot of champagne." "You never drink champagne." "I drank champagne last night. I drank champagne all the way to midnight and then all the way after midnight. It was good champagne." "Are you hungover?" "Completely. And my lungs are killing me. I hate when I smoke cigarettes. How was your night?" "I didn't smoke." "Good boy. Did you drink?" "Just a little. I was more exhausted when I came home than anything else." "The Worthens didn't tuck you in after the ball dropped?" "I never even saw them," I said. "They were at some black-tie gala." "I've never been to a New Year's Eve party where black tie was required," my father said. "Maybe next year I'll put away the jeans and T and do it in style." I had seen my father wear a tuxedo only once, to the sweet sixteen of a classmate of mine. The party was at the Plaza and I knew he'd like the atmosphere so I convinced him to go. From my table I saw my father moving from his table to the bar, walking his trademark walk, shoulders slightly swaying like he could kick anyone's ass if confronted even if he was dressed formally. He walked like a fighter, but gracefully too, and he looked tough and refined at the same time, his blond hair cut short, cheekbones visible from working out, push-ups and pull-ups and runs along the river. Sometimes in the winter, between running seasons, we ran together along the Hudson if he hadn't already run while I was at school. The girl sitting next to me was also watching my father walk. She watched him order a drink from the bartender. She watched him lift the drink, which I knew was bourbon. She watched him walk back to the table and smile at the woman to his right, a woman I had never seen before and, I guessed, my father had only met that afternoon. The girl at my table didn't stop looking. "You know who that is?" I said. "Who is it?" "Jared Chiziver." "I thought your name was Chiziver," the girl said. "It is my name," I said. "What is he, your older brother?" "He's my father." "Really," she said and she looked me over to see if I had what he had, if I was at least starting to develop what he had. We were built alike and we even looked alike, a little, although my hair was brown and my eyes not as narrow, blue not green, but I could tell the girl didn't see it in me, not the part of it she had been watching, and so she turned back to my father and I ordered another ginger ale from the waiter standing at attention in white gloves. f0My father pressed his eyes, the hangover set in his crow's feet that became defined after a night of drinking. The New Year's Eve champagne had done a number on him. "Are you hungry?" I said to my father. "I must be. I lost everything I ate at the party." "Booze and then beer, nothing to fear. Beer and then booze, you're gonna lose. What's the story with champagne?" "Good champagne," my father said. "Okay. What's the story with good champagne?" "Good champagne has a story all its own." "You still had the wastebasket at the ready." "I'm always prepared," he said and I left it alone. My father hit the remote and the channel changed. A long shot of last night's Times Square, thousands of revelers acting happy for the camera. "Happy New Year," my father shouted. "Happy New Year to you too," I said. "I'm starving." "Is that your resolution?" "Very funny." "Come on, we'll go down. What are you in the mood for? Pizza? Chinese food? Whatever you want." "You're in no shape to go out," I said. "I can go out." "You don't want to go out." "Not really, but I should probably eat something." "We can order a pizza from Lombardi's." "Call up. Get a pie with the works. Get two pies if you want. We can have a New Year's Day feast. Start the year off right with mozzarella and Italian sausage on top." My father stretched. He arranged himself inside the pair of sweats he wore to bed when he slept alone. I called up and ordered two pizzas, one with mushrooms and sausage and one with anchovies. Sometimes I was the one doing everything, like I was the father, like I was holding down the job and making the adult decisions, like what kind of pizza to order, but I wasn't. I always knew he was there for me, would protect me, and he gave me everything I wanted that f0he could afford. He didn't have much, but he always had enough. He always kept that balance. And when he introduced me, usually to a woman, he always held my shoulder in his strong hand and said This is my son, Ben, and I felt how much I was the son. The voice at the pizza place asked if I wanted the pies delivered. I said I'd pick them up. I could run down to Lombardi's and back and save a few tip bucks. I was fast. I was only a sophomore, but there were already college scouts checking me out, standing around the inside of the track with stopwatches of their own, and I knew that some school would offer me a free ride. My father didn't exactly have a kitty tucked away for my education. He had never even finished school. I'd already read more books than my father, but he had lived more than me. Jared Chiziver had lived more than most men, real-life living, and his real stories, when he told them, were not fabricated. Just as his walk was no longer fabricated. He had probably tried the walk on for size when he had been younger, younger than I was, younger than sixteen, and the walk had fit. Walk the walk. I ran. I did my schoolwork. My father taught me other things. Copyright 2004 by Adam Berlin Excerpted from Belmondo Style by Adam Berlin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.