Edward Schwarzschild


Responsible Men

"Responsible Men...takes the generations that separate Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' from David Mamet's 'Glengarry Glen Ross' and condenses them into one panorama, so that you can see all the way from Willy Loman, 'riding on a smile and a shoeshine,' to Willy's cutthroat contemporary heirs.....Schwarzschild writes with compelling insight and emotional power. It is a rare authorial gift.....This novel is the real thing: buy now while stocks last."

— Carey Harrison, Chicago Tribune

"In Responsible Men, the reader is immediately pulled into a con deal in the making. The author manages to invoke compassion for the salesman—a master at telling people what they want to hear—and also for his potential victims....The suspense, humor and human connections that Schwarzschild concocts makes this original work stand out. Ultimately, it's a story of hope.... Schwarzschild might do for Philadelphia what William Kennedy has done for Albany and Anne Tyler for Baltimore." (Read the full review)

Sandee Brawarsky, Jewish Week

"Early in Schwarzschild's marvelous debut novel, Max Wolinsky issues a warning: 'Let the buyer beware.' But it's impossible to avoid falling for Max, even if he is a small-time con. ... that's how appealingly the author has designed our hero, not to mention his cohorts ... Grade: A-."

Entertainment Weekly

"Life gets complicated for a con man with a conscience in a thrilling first novel that's family drama with a strong suspense element.

Max Wolinsky is back in Philadelphia for his son Nathan's bar mitzvah. It's been a year since Max took off for Florida, after wife Sandy left him for the gardener. Max is staying with his father Caleb, and his uncle Abe, a stroke victim. Both brothers used to be textile salesmen, and Max, a college dropout, had joined them for a while before crossing the line into small scams; right now, he's about to sell some nonexistent real estate to a prosperous Philly couple, the Goulds. Max has his rules: Don't hurt anybody physically; don't leave anyone destitute ... Schwarzschild keeps the story moving while deepening his family portrait. Family members protect each other with kindnesses large and small, forming a lifeline to the next generation ... Max is at the center, tempted by easy money, but willing to start over. His soul hangs in the balance through turns of plot and bare-knuckled violence, internal and external dramas both packing a wallop.

From a complicated business deal to a teenager's first kiss, Schwarzschild works with the quiet authority of a master. This is one terrific debut."

Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"What determines the path we take in life? Is it a genetic predisposition, the twists and turns of fate, the people we meet along the way? In Responsible Men...Edward Schwarzschild examines these issues as he limns the path his central character, Max Wolinsky, has taken in the past and the choices he must make....Max wants to turn a corner, become a law-abiding citizen for his new girlfriend and an upright father to his teenage son. An insightful, well-told tale about the intricacies of human nature."

Jewish Book World

"While the characters and plot are incredibly compelling, it's Schwarzschild's prose that pulls you in, especially when he describes the streets of what used to be the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of East Oak Lane. Schwarzschild is so persuasive that you feel like a ghost walking the streets of a neighborhood no longer there. ...Responsible Men is a novel of atonement, of acceptance and of overcoming the grief of getting older and wiser. It is an impressive first novel, which will ensure that the New York Times list of best sellers will eventually see Schwarzschild climb the charts."

Chestnut Hill Local, Philadelphia, PA

"To point out that Responsible Men is Edward Schwarzschild's first novel is intended only to call attention to the promise of more—this is no apprentice work. The novel is remarkable in its restraint and subtlety. This story about a family of small-time conmen has drawn comparisons to both Arthur Miller and Richard Russo, but is neither bleak nor quaintly comic. Instead, Schwarzschild presents a richly imagined and deeply humane study of immediately recognizable, engagingly flawed characters."

Metroland, Albany, NY

"In many ways, Responsible Men is an old-fashioned novel with traditional themes of family, heritage, honesty, trust and loyalty. Schwarzschild tells this modern morality tale of redemption and forgiveness with measured confidence. He reveals the quirks and flaws of his characters slowly but surely. Schwarzschild knows the milieu well."

— June Sawyers, San Francisco Chronicle

"This highly ambitious and delicate first novel functions skillfully—at times beautifully—on two symbiotic levels. On one level, Responsible Men tells a story unique unto itself; a testosterone-driven caper involving financial scams and philandering. This finely crafted plot services the book's more compelling dimension—a conceptual tale chronicling the life of dreams.... For Schwarzschild, the world is charged by a pulsating imagination; every person defines dreams; and every dream, in turn, defines its dreamer."

The Jerusalem Post

"Works of literature about salesmen are not many, but they tend to be revered. Think Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman or David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. Now add to that brief list Responsible Men, the debut novel of...Edward Schwarzschild, who applies a sievelike agility for minute observation with a soulful feel for the creaking wreckage of the American Dream that is pastoral and urbane, simultaneously, eminently readable, frequently hilarious, and always deeply moving."

— J. Rentilly, PAGES Magazine

"Responsible Men pulls readers along as effortlessly as if we were on water skis....Schwarzschild's handling of this material is masterful."

— Mary Carole McCauley, Baltimore Sun

"In a family of salesmen, how can you tell the handshake from the hype, the leg pulling from the sincere gesture? Edward Schwarzschild's first novel, Responsible Men, asks such questions, and answers them gradually and wisely in the course of a deeply human story....In this auspicious debut, Schwarzschild...combines suspense, drama and comedy to show the foibles and trespassings of a man struggling with all the usual ethical questions, and then some."

— Jan Richman, special to SF Gate/San Francisco Chronicle

"...a completely winning debut novel... [a] picture-perfect tale. Its con-man milieu brings to mind "Matchstick Men," while its three generations of slightly shady men recalls Sidney Lumet's "Family Business." In style and circumstance, one is reminded of "Empire Falls" by Richard Russo. Why not get Philadelphia's own M. Night Shyamalan to direct this story set in the City of Brotherly Love? "Responsible Men" is a story about connection and re-connection, and of finding out what it means to be a man at any age. All of which makes Schwarzschild responsible for a great book." (Read the full review)

— C. J. Lais, Jr., Albany Times-Union

"Is there really such a thing as a responsible man? Max Wolinsky, a swindling salesman, finds himself forced to face this question when he revisits his Philadelphia stomping grounds ... An astute understanding of children of divorce coupled with a mature grasp of the pitfalls and pratfalls of adulthood bring depth to this debut. Schwarzschild's accomplished, no-nonsense prose captures one family's attempt at responsibility and reconciliation on the dingy, desperate Philly streets."


"Responsible Men brings a lot to the literary table....Schwarzschild deftly takes us into the lives, minds and relationships of his characters. Responsible Men is an excellent story."

The Sunday Oklahoman

"With twinges of Michael Chabon and Raymond Carver in his prose, Responsible Men proves Schwarzschild...a gifted pro with a stunning debut."

Philadelphia Style Magazine

"Responsible Men is about a salesman in a family of salesmen. It's also about coming of age, some Kosher boy scouts, the dreams of a big score and the credos of scoundrels. It's, by now, archetypal American literature territory (see Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross for instance) and yet the book is absolutely fresh."

Buffalo News

"Responsible Men is a quick read, and a rewarding one. On one level—the level of genre fiction—Schwarzschild deftly sets in motion a con-game plot. On another level, Schwarzschild skillfully portrays the wracked conscience of Max [Wolinsky], a man who fears that both his father and his son regard him as the greatest disappointment of their lives."

Austin American-Statesman

What other writers have said about Responsible Men

"A story of intrigue, redemption, and human decency. Though strewn with the wreckage of life, this book is suffused with the light of hope. In straightforward prose, Schwarzschild writes with compassion and insight, which makes this marvelous novel a moving, impressive debut."

Ha Jin, National Book Award Winner and author of Waiting and War Trash

"Edward Schwarzschild has written an extraordinary novel, at once gritty and tender, funny and achingly sad. The Wolinksy family—troubled and kind, fast-talking and slow to change, loaded with charm in the midst of un-charmed lives—has moved into my mind and heart for good."

Elizabeth Graver, author of The Honey Thief and Awake

"With unfaltering emotional acuity, Responsible Men confronts the questions that lie at the heart of human relationships: If we are honest with each other, will we still be loved? If we have been deceived, can we learn to trust? And once we've loved and lost, can we love again? In his lucid, empathetic portrayal of three generations of Philadelphia salesmen, Schwarzschild combines great storytelling with a profound understanding of the forces that bind us to one another. This is a wise and unforgettable book."

Julie Orringer, author of How to Breathe Underwater

"Edward Schwarzschild's Responsible Men is not merely a remarkably assured and enjoyable first novel; it is a work of art with the rarest of qualities: a profoundly moral center. Max Wolinsky's heartfelt and often hilariously inept efforts to be both a good father and a good son serve as the centerpiece of the author's incisive examination of human frailty and the abiding desire to craft something meaningful and lasting from the confusing jumble of life."

John Gregory Brown, author of Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery and Audubon's Watch

"Responsible Men begins with a con game and carefully unfolds the flawed lives of three generations of salesmen who long to be more responsible than they are ... A compassionately and deftly-told story."

William Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ironweed and Roscoe