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Five Thoughts On Sam Apple’s TABLET Story

red-31980_640“The Butcher of Desire; or Imagining Philip Roth” is a “longform” piece by Sam Apple, recently published in Tablet magazine as part of Tablet‘s “original fiction” series. It is a brilliant piece of writing. I read it days ago, and I am still thinking about it.

Which made me wonder: What is it about this piece that I find so striking? How and why is this work so significant to me?

I’ve come up with five possible answers. Continue reading ›

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Midweek Post from a Practicing Writer

UnknownRecommended Reading

Over on my other blog, I’m singing the praises of Michal Lemberger’s new collection After Abel and Other Stories. If you’re looking for a new book with which to celebrate Short Story Month (May!), you might consider this one. (For anyone consciously trying to “Read Women,” it’s an especially appropriate choice.)


New iPhone!

Okay, so maybe this isn’t directly writing-related, but this week also brought me an iPhone upgrade! I leapfrogged over from my old iPhone4 to a snazzy 6! A lovely little quality-of-life upgrade, I must say. Including a noticeably improved camera. To wit: a photo snapped after a recent run in Central Park. How do you like it?


Dispatch from the Day Job

Last, but by no means least: Things are hopping over at my day job with Fig Tree Books. Just today, in fact, we’ve unveiled our fall 2015 list. You’ll see why I’m so excited about it when you read the announcement.

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From My Bookshelf: AFTER ABEL AND OTHER STORIES by Michal Lemberger

Unknown As per usual, it has been a busy time, and I haven’t been able to read as much as I’d like to. But among the few books that I have managed to finish lately is one that still has me thinking: Michal Lemberger’s After Abel and Other Stories (Prospect Park Books).

I’d been looking forward to this book of short stories for months, ever since I read the piece titled “Lot’s Wife” in Lilith magazine. Shortly thereafter, I enrolled in a Jewish-writing class myself that shared some parallels with Lemberger’s project in its approach.

So what is Lemberger’s project? In a recent post for the Jewish Book Council’s blog, she explained: Continue reading ›

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From My Bookshelf: Lesléa Newman’s I CARRY MY MOTHER

Earlier this year, I shared one line from a poem by Lesléa Newman (“Sitting Shiva,” which I’d discovered thanks to Keshet/MyJewishLearning.com) as a “Sunday Sentence” on the Practicing Writing blog. Simultaneously, I ordered a copy of the collection in which that poem appears, I Carry My Mother, in which the poet recounts her mother’s dying and her own grief. But it took me until this week to sit down and actually read the book.

It is a searing collection. I dare anyone to read it without shedding tears at least once. (Maybe I suspected that would be the case, and maybe I needed some time to steel myself before engaging with the full collection.)

It is also a remarkably instructive volume for anyone interested in the practice of poetry. And since April is National Poetry Month, it seems appropriate to comment on this quality. Continue reading ›

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Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

A New Month, A New Newsletter, and New Hopes for My Poetry Practice

imagesIn case you haven’t yet seen it, the April issue of The Practicing Writer is now available.

Along with the usual hefty serving of no-fee contest listings and calls from paying publishers/litmags, you’ll find within the issue a brief item in which I describe my hopes for giving my poetry practice a kick-start this month and a few links to resources I’m counting on to help in that endeavor: the 2015 Poetic Asides PAD (Poem-A-Day) Challenge; the Poetry Super Highway Prompt-A-Day for National Poetry Month; and NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month). Continue reading ›

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From My Bookshelf: Myron S. Kaufmann’s REMEMBER ME TO GOD

Can't explain the coloring on the cover of my library copy!

Can’t explain the coloring on the cover of my library copy!

“Though it was hailed on publication as one of the finest novels ever written about American Jews and remained on The New York Times bestseller list for an entire year,” Josh Lambert has written for Tablet, “almost no one remembers [Myron S. Kaufmann’s Remember Me to God] today. It goes unmentioned in bibliographies of American Jewish fiction, and so obscure is Kaufmann in this Internet age that searching for his name turns up nary a stub on Wikipedia.”

Lambert’s essay explores the possible reasons behind the book’s obscurity. Having recently immersed myself in the novel (you can find a summary here), I can appreciate Lambert’s arguments and hypotheses. I’m in particular agreement with the suggestion that one should accord attention and respect to the characters of Adam Amsterdam and his daughter Dorothy. But I can’t get away from how unpleasant—dare I say, how unsympathetic—I found the ostensible protagonist, Richard Amsterdam (Adam’s son and Dorothy’s brother).

This character is so repellent that he made it challenging for me to stick with the novel—which runs more than 600 pages—despite the book’s unquestionable artistic merits as (again borrowing from Lambert) “a finely wrought triumph of midcentury realism.” Like Lambert, I have personal connections to Harvard, where much of the novel unfolds, and innumerable details within the novel struck chords of not-unpleasant memory. But Richard Amsterdam (and, to a lesser extent, Richard’s mother) so appalled me that I’m not sure how comfortable I’d feel recommending this book to others without some warnings.

Still, I can understand Lambert’s enthusiasm. And I’m not sorry that I read it.

Have you read Remember Me to God? What was your take?

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