Monday brings the weekly batch of no-fee competitions/contests, paying submission calls, and jobs for those of us who write (especially those of us who write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction). Continue reading ›
— Michael Nye (@mpnye) October 13, 2014
If you’re a subscriber or otherwise have access to the journal, you’ll find my piece, “Unmothers: Women Writing About Life Without Children,” within.
People have been asking me what I’m doing as Media Editor for Fig Tree Books. This week, one part of my job became public information: editing freelance reviews to be published on the Fig Tree Books website.
We announced this exciting project on the Fig Tree site yesterday:
We’re proud that the Fig Tree Books website is now home to content drawn from Joshua Lambert’s American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide, a compendium of 125 reviews of important literature that deals with the experiences of American Jews. By incorporating this book’s companion website into the Fig Tree website, we have been able to include many of the summary reviews that appeared in the Guide as well as a list of hundreds of other important works Lambert was not able to cover.
And that’s where you come in. We’re looking for smart, enthusiastic readers to write about the books that Lambert wasn’t able to include so that we may further enrich the conversation about fiction that evokes and engages with American Jewish experience.
Interested? Read the full announcement here. (And, yes–FTB will be paying its reviewers.)
The biggest news this week is that my employer, Fig Tree Books LLC, has launched its imprint and announced its first four books, which will be published beginning in March 2015. Read the full press release on our wonderful website. And/or check out this generous coverage from Library Journal. (It’s never too late to celebrate! Lift a virtual glass as per the nifty image I had fun creating and am sharing here.)
Working for FTB means that I won’t be doing much of the freelance writing-about-books that I’ve done for such a long time. When I began working for FTB last month, I had just finished two such freelance assignments. One of them–a fall books preview article for The Jewish Journal–was published this week. I hope you’ll take a look. The other, a review-essay for The Missouri Review, will be in the forthcoming fall issue. I can give you a hint about it, though: If you found Meghan Daum’s essay in this week’s issue of The New Yorker interesting, you’ll find some similar food for thought in my TMR piece.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins tonight. I’m not going to blog for the next couple of days. But rest assured, I’ll be back! In the meantime, here’s wishing a sweet and happy new year to everyone else who is celebrating.
Book reviews were something of a big topic among the Twitterati this past week. I’m thinking mainly of the reaction to a review published (and subsequently withdrawn) by The Economist. But I saw some lively, if not especially incisive, commentary about another review, of a novel, in another well-known publication (summary: some people seemed to think the reviewer was too harsh).
But the book review that most caught my attention over the last week was one included in The New Yorker‘s “Briefly Noted” section. I’ll give you a moment to click over and read it (it’s the second one, on Frederick Brown’s The Embrace of Unreason).
You’ll see why I’m so dissatisfied by the anonymous New Yorker reviewer’s take when you read my own review of the same book, commissioned for a publication-that-shall-not-be-named, but eventually “killed.” I’ve been told that the review’s “death” resulted not from any specific problem with the piece; in fact, what you’re seeing here is the “final” version that incorporates revisions requested and approved by my editor.
Without further ado–my review: Continue reading ›
Review by Mark Shechner
The present situation for Jewish writers and their readers bears little resemblance to the scene of just two decades ago. It has been so transformed as to be scarcely recognizable. If there is a prior state of affairs, however, in which our time can see itself in an historical mirror it would be the ferment of the early 20th century, the springtime of Jewish writing in America, when writers ambitious to speak for their culture and their moment commonly had at least two languages to choose from, Yiddish and English. We know that some even wrote in Hebrew, and who now remembers the names of those whose also wrote in Russian and Polish? Who recalls Dusk in the Catskills by Reuben Wallenrod, published in 1957? Wallenrod doesn’t appear in any of the standard histories. Nor will he any time soon. He wrote fiction in Hebrew.
The contemporary moment recycles history in this sense: much of it is fueled by émigrés from abroad who work in multiple languages: a handful still in their native tongues, but most in English, sometimes a decentered English under the tonal canopy of another language. The FSU (former Soviet Union) writers are the most remarkable cases in point. 2014 alone has seen the publication of books by Lara Vapnyar (The Scent of Pine), Anya Ulinich (Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel: A Graphic Novel), Gary Shteyngart (Little Failure: A Memoir), Boris Fishman (A Replacement Life), David Bezmozgis (The Betrayers), and David Shrayer-Petrov (Dinner with Stalin and Other Stories). And that is just a single year’s production. These writers are either themselves members of the refusenik generation that forced open the prison gates of the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s or their children. Wherever they settled, they brought with them their passion for the written word, their febrile imaginations, and their stories.
David Shrayer-Petrov, born in 1936, continues to write in Russian, though he has lived in the United States since 1987 where, besides writing, he has worked as a doctor. Though he has a reputation in Russian émigré circles, his name is little known in American discussions, even though Syracuse University Press has previously published two volumes of his fiction: Jonah and Sarah: Jewish Stories of Russia and America (2003) and Autumn in Yalta: A Novel and Three Stories (2006). Both books were edited by his son Maxim Shrayer, a professor at Boston College and himself a fiction writer: Yom Kippur in Amsterdam (Syracuse, 2012). Continue reading ›