Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish lit’

Interviews |

The Text You Can’t Control: An Interview with Jacob Paul

“We create things that we hope will, someday, become objects of value. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, many writers–Foer, DeLillo, and Roth, to name just a few–all came out with 9/11 novels. I was initially bothered by this. I wanted to say, ‘Fuck you; I was there.’ This passed for a couple reasons. First was the realization that we’re all survivors of one type or another. Second, these texts can never really become authoritative positions on the experiences of a group of people, no matter how well written they are or how well credentialed their creators might be. There’s no uniform experience of being a 9/11 survivor, no uniform experience of being a woman. These are things that can’t be owned by anyone.”

Interviews |

Vampires are People, too: An Interview with Janice Eidus

NPR’s Marion Winik has called Janice Eidus’s latest novel, The Last Jewish Virgin, “Twilight…with a sense of humor, a brain, and a feminist subtext.” At the Algonquin hotel, Eidus talks with Lauren Hall about paying homage to—and reinventing—the vampire myth; judging a book by its cover; and writing longhand in the mountains of San Miguel de Allende.

Reviews |

Sarah/Sara, by Jacob Paul

Jacob Paul’s debut, Sarah/Sara, is not a joyful read, but it is a deeply moving one. The novel unfolds as the journal of Sarah Frankel, an American-born Jew who, shortly after finishing college, moved to Israel, where she took the Hebrew version of her name (“Sara,” pronounced Sah-rah) and became far more ritually observant than she was raised to be. After her visiting parents are killed in a suicide bombing in the café below her Jerusalem apartment, Sara embarks on a six-week, solo kayaking trip through the Arctic. Throughout the beautiful yet dangerous trek, Sarah’s thoughts turn not only to her past—memories—but also to an imagined future, one that challenges her faith.

Reviews |

Sima's Undergarments for Women, by Ilana Stanger-Ross

In her moving debut novel, Sima’s Undergarments for Women (Overlook, 2009), Ilana Stanger-Ross renders her title character so startlingly real, and with such empathy, that we cannot help but root for her. In the Jewish neighborhood of Boro Park, Brooklyn, Sima and her husband, Lev–both in shuffling middle age–have long accepted (but are forever marked by) the disappointment of not being able to have children. Sima has withdrawn into the world of her shop, away from the shroud of tragedy cast over her marriage. The story begins when a vivacious young Israeli woman, Timna, enters Sima’s shop and changes everything. The story begins when a vivacious young Israeli woman, Timna, enters Sima’s shop and changes everything.

Interviews |

Those Magic Carbons: A Conversation with Eileen Pollack

Brian Short talks to fiction guru Eileen Pollack about the juggling act of writing fiction, teaching writing, and directing the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Michigan. Her advice to writers: Be bold.

“The first thing I love, when I read, is the language. I can’t read anything where I don’t like the voice. What else do I like? I like plot, I like setting, I like humor, I like boldness. I think part of it has to do with being female. No one ever told Philip Roth to be more timid or nice, to have nicer characters or less sex, to not be as broad. And when a woman tests boundaries, it’s seen as unbecoming. We’re supposed to write these quiet, domestic stories or novels. I’ve just never been one to do that.”

Reviews |

Book of Clouds, by Chloe Aridjis

Chloe Aridjis’s first novel, Book of Clouds (Black Cat, 2009), proves an immensely pleasurable and thought-provoking read. Tatiana, whose father owns the largest Jewish deli in Mexico City, finds herself still living in Berlin long after winning a year there from the Goethe Institute. As a self-professed “professional in lost time,” Tatiana may challenge writer-readers’ assumptions about good characterization. And yet the novel succeeds and keeps us engaged in not only Tatiana, but in the novel’s real main character: the city of Berlin.

Reviews |

Friendly Fire, by A.B. Yehoshua

A.B. Yehoshua never writes the shortcut phrase “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” in Friendly Fire, his most recent novel, newly translated into English from Hebrew. It’s as though the veteran Israeli author is mining a seam so deep that its boundaries do not need to be explored or examined, or picking up a thread of conversation that Israelis have already been engaged in for 60 years. That isn’t to say, however, that Yehoshua has no comment on the matter.

Shop Talk |

Passover: "Truth in Storytelling"

Happy Pesach from FWR! I was planning to link to some Passover-themed short stories or poems, but it turns out they’re in short supply, at least in free textual online form. My own favorite ode to the holiday is William Finn’s song “Passover” from his heartbreaking song cycle Elegies. Like many of Finn’s songs, it packs the emotional punch and narrative depth of a short story into three minutes. Instead of a story or song, I offer this excerpt from Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein’s 2008 essay “Truth in Storytelling”, from This follows a discussion of some contradicting stories — […]