The Pinch

Written by Steve Stern
Review by Elicia Parkinson

If you look carefully at the cover, you will see that The Pinch is considered simultaneously “a history” and “a novel,” which definitely piqued my interest. This causes Lenny Sklarew—the gangly, drug-selling bookstore assistant who discovers the book—some consternation as he tries to determine where he should shelve it. Additionally perplexing to him is that as he holds the book in 1968, he flips through the pages and discovers his own name as a character in the book, which was written in 1952. “The Pinch” refers to a once-burgeoning Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee, of which, in the 1968 timeline, Lenny is one of the last people living in the now fallen and decrepit neighborhood. He decides to read the book to better understand himself and the history of his environment through the story, and in the process, we readers learn about Memphis in various points on the timeline as well.

While the characters are a vital part of the timelines, the Pinch district itself is the central, silent character, from its beginning stages to its glory days and its subsequent downfall.

This is a fun and fascinating metafictional story with just enough myth and folklore to be truly magical. All the while, it brings to life the history of the late 19th century (as the history of the Pinch begins, according to the book Lenny discovers in his bookstore) and of 1968, during the height of the Civil Rights movement and the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike.