"My First Sony" tells of a family in Tel Aviv, the father, an unsuccessful playwright; mother, an architect; and their three children. The middle son, a young teen-ager, showing signs of a future writer, videotapes everything -- hence the title. The older son has the most difficult relationship with the father. The youngest daughter, not yet a teenager, simply adores him.
The plot revolves, in wide rather than tight circles, around the father's compulsive and destructive juggling of lovers, seen especially through the eyes of the middle son. "My First Sony" gets the ups and downs from the father's perspective as well as most of I.B. Singer's books, and, like Singer, captures something of the inscrutability of human desire. The family's reactions are restrained by their awareness that they are bound together, and take a path between ultimatums and persuasion.
The characters are realistically responsive to the ideas in the air generally and among their middle-class and bookish crowd. For example, there is the pony-tailed, vaguely Rudolf Steiner-ish marriage counselor. At first I laughed at this, but then appreciated the subtle mix of trendiness and reasonableness. I laughed for longer at the art teacher in "Ghost World." On further reflection, this is not because one is a better parody or a truer-to-life non-parody, but because a high school teacher has a younger and captive audience and can get away with more.
"My First Sony" is consistently good on a range of central and passing concerns, never descending into false extremes or cliche: The observantness of children (as in "The 400 Blows," "The Sopranos," "La Promesse"). Risks and capriciousness of life (cf. "The Son's Room," "A Map of the World"). Work and money. "My First Sony" integrates all into full lives, tied together with light echoes of some unobtrusive and eloquent commentary.