Work-in-Progress: Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

(Still experimenting with a new title/format for these midweek posts. Thanks for bearing with me!)

Well, not exactly. But my extended family has found, these past several years, that it’s often easier for all of us to gather for a holiday on less-than-exact dates that are at least in the general vicinity of the holiday in question.

Thus, last weekend found us pre-celebrating Hanukkah. Below, one of the gifts Auntie Erika bestowed: B.J. Novak’s The Book With No Pictures (the picture doesn’t capture the excitement/joy that the gift evoked as soon as it was unwrapped; this was one of my more inspired/successful choices!).


This week brought the conclusion of the terrific workshop I’ve been part of this fall. It also brought an effort–now stalled, I admit–to work on a new essay. And it brought a poetry acceptance (more about that soon, I trust!).

I knew the workshop was coming to an end. I suspected that the essay might not “work.” And I hoped the poem might find its home.

But I did not, in any way, anticipate this lovely note which arrived via email yesterday, about one of the short stories in Quiet Americans:

It’s such a gloomy day outside so I thought that I’d write a fan letter, hopefully bringing you a little cheer by complimenting you on “For Services Rendered.” I found it to be quite an original slant and very well written. If you check my website, you’ll see that my special interest is medical history — especially Jewish medical history. Recently while updating a chapter from one of my early books, I was looking for contemporary literary descriptions of Jewish doctors and discovered your Dr. Weldmann. I’m thinking of adding him to some of my favorite characters from books written by Arthur Schnitzler, Sinclair Lewis, Gerald Green, Israel Joshua Singer – so why not Erika Dreifus? Congratulations.

Isn’t that lovely? (And yes, I obtained Dr. Nevins’s permission to reprint his message here.)

This week I finished reading the newly reissued edition of Yossi Klein Halevi’s Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist: The Story of a Transformation. I’d heard some buzz about this book, but I was moved to purchase a copy after reading this interview with the author in The Times of Israel.

It’s a fascinating book, not least for the light it throws on the history of the 1960s and 1970s. But I suspect that some of my own fascination with it likely stems from an attempt to understand how a person might become part of an extremist movement in the first place. That’s a big question propelling the action in Jonathan Papernick’s forthcoming novel The Book of Stone, which I’m helping to bring to readers through my work with Fig Tree Books. (It will be out in May, and galleys are now in production. How do you like the cover, btw?)


After I finished reading the memoir, I turned to the next title on my queue: Miriam Toews’s All My Puny Sorrows. This one, too, had been on my radar for a time—albeit a short time—before Ron Charles’s review for The Washington Post inspired me to move it up on my tbr list. I’m about 80 pages in now.

Hmm. Not sure exactly how to end these “new” midweek posts…any thoughts/suggestions? It’s somehow easier to conclude a post that focuses on a single topic/idea.

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