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The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz

From Mordecai Richler, one of our greatest satirists, comes one of literature's most delightful characters, Duddy Kravitz -- in a novel that belongs in the pantheon of seminal twentieth century books.
Duddy -- the third generation of a Jewish immigrant family in Montreal -- is combative, amoral, scheming, a liar, and totally hilarious. From his street days tormenting teachers at the Jewish academy to his time hustling four jobs at once in a grand plan to "be somebody," Duddy learns about living -- and the lesson is an outrageous roller-coaster ride through the human comedy. As Richler turns his blistering commentary on love, money, and politics, The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz becomes a lesson for us laughter and in life.

1. Discuss what being an apprentice means. What was the "apprenticeship" of Duddy Kravitz? What was he learning about?
2. Who are Duddy's primary masters or teachers? What does he learn from each one?
3. The motivations for behavior are complex, but if you were to pick out one primary motivator of Duddy's actions, what would it be?
4. What does Duddy have against MacPherson? How do you feel about what happens between them?
5. The Jewish immigrant experience is one theme in this book. We see three generations of the Kravitz family. How are each of their experiences different or the same?
6. In your opinion, what is the worst thing that Duddy does? How does he rationalize his actions?
7. Duddy is a scoundrel, but what about his character makes him likable? And although he is often bad, he is never truly evil. What is the difference?
8. Richler has been called a regional writer. How important is it that this book is set in Montreal, Canada?
9. Richler was criticized for presenting negative Jewish stereotypes in this book. Do you think the criticism was justified? How does he portray Dingleman? Uncle Benjy? Auntie Ida? Cohen?
10. Richler is a great satirist, one of the finest of our time. What aspects of society does he attack most?
11. This book is also about the importance of family. How important is family to Duddy, and how do you know?
12. The book has a masterful ending. Discuss the last scene, and its irony. How does it pull the events of the book together?

Q: As far as apprenticeships go, who or what helped you become a writer?
A: I was never offered an honest job.
Q: What prompted you to decide to make writing your profession? Since it's not exactly a "sure thing" career choice, how difficult was this decision?
A: I never wanted to be anything else.
Q: Did the success of Duddy Kravitz change your life? Your writing?
A: No.
Q: Was Duddy Kravitz, the character, based on any real-life person or persons?
A: He was an amalgam of several boys I knew.
Q: Why do you prefer a scoundrel, or an antihero, for your protagonist?

A: They are easier (and more enjoyable) to write about.
Q: You are a satirist, but, nevertheless, Duddy Kravitz aroused the anger of some Jews who felt you were portraying negative stereotypes. Do you feel this criticism had any merit?
A: No.
Q: Do you read the reviews of your books? Do you think writers, in general, are more helped or harmed by reading criticism of their works?
A: Yes, I read the reviews. Like market reports.

The Washington Times It is time to recognize Mr. Richler as one of North America's most powerful novelists.

Chicago Tribune A rasping humor pervades the book....It burgeons with its special talent and a vulgar vitality.

The Washington Times A fast-moving, entertaining, and bawdy novel.

Los Angeles Times Funny in the biting, subversive manner of Joseph Heller and Philip Roth.

Minneapolis Star Tribune Duddy Kravitz [is] Richler's most famous creation.

The New York Times Book Review Richler has been praised for his clear-eyed vision and his realistic style.... The total effect is as brash and blatant as a sports car rally -- and as suggestive of power.

Alfred Kazin It comes off brilliantly.