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Friedman's first novel, Stern, is most often considered as a contribution to the emergence of "black humor" in American fiction.Stern is an existential comedy about the angst of Jewish assimilation. The novel's title character finds himself in alien territory- the American suburbs-confused and beset by a series of humiliations he struggles to understand. The story of his misadventures is funny, but in the way the plays of Beckett and Ionesco are funny, in a detached and deadpan manner that can also be disconcerting.