The ProsenPeople

Places Never Seen

Friday, February 22, 2013 | Permalink
Earlier this week, Jay Neugeboren wrote about the title story of his third collection and the art of silence. He has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

My most recently published novel, The Other Side of the World, contains a 100-page novel-within-the-novel set entirely in Singapore and Borneo. The book appeared in early December, and since then readers and interviewers keep asking an obvious question: Have you ever been to Singapore and/or Borneo?

The answer: No . . .

And the response to this answer is often bewilderment, as in: How can you write about a place you’ve never seen or been to? To this point no one, including friends and reviewers who have been to Singapore and Borneo, has questioned the credibility of the Singapore and Borneo I’ve conjured up. But why should people believe that a fiction writer has to go to a place in order to write about it? An earlier novel of mine, The Stolen Jew (1981), begins in Israel, on a beach in Herzlia, and I wrote this novel before I’d ever been to Israel. The Stolen Jew also contains several sections set in the Soviet Union, both in time-present (about smuggling out a Jewish dissident), and in the nineteenth century (about a Jewish boy kidnapped to take the place of another Jewish boy for 25 year service in the Tsar’s army—the dreaded cantonist gzeyra).

I had never been to the Soviet Union.

The list of writers who have written about places they’ve never been to is long and impressive, beginning with Shakespeare (his many plays set in Italy: Othello, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Romeo and Juliet, and The Merchant of Venice, etc.), and includes, for starters, Saul Bellow (Henderson the Rain King, set in Africa, which Bellow had never visited), Franz Kafka (Amerika, set on our shores, which Kafka never saw), Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities, an imaginary dialogue set in China between Kublai Kahn and Marco Polo). And Shakespeare, I note, never met a Jew, for they were banished from England during his lifetime, yet he created Shylock.

William Saroyan, a splendid novelist and story writer, once did a travel piece for Esquire magazine about Mexico City. After the article appeared, his editor at Esquire called to tell him that several readers had written to the magazine saying they could not find some of the places Saroyan mentioned in the article. Had Saroyan visited them? “You asked me to write about Mexico City,” Saroyan replied. “You didn’t say I had to go there.” And of course there are the thousands of historical novels—novels that try to portray historical periods and figures by fictionalizing them—as opposed to what writers like Bellow, Calvino, Shakespeare, McMurtry, Charyn, Chabon, Laxness, Dickens, and others have done, which is to re-imagine historical periods and figures.

But why, in novels and stories, should writing about a place you’ve never been to be any different than writing about imaginary people you’ve never known? Or about historical figures you’ve never met (e.g., E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, Colm Toibin’s The Master, Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc)?

The great joy for me as a writer of fiction is to be able to go anywhere in time and place, and to be anyone. In my next novel, The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company (March 2013), I’ll start out as a twelve-year-old boy in the year 1915 who, on a frozen lake in Fort Lee, New Jersey, is about to play the part of a young girl in a (silent) film his family is making. And the novel I am at work on now is told by a black man, born in Louisiana at the beginning of the twentieth century, who becomes close friend and “Man Friday” to the heavyweight champion, Max Baer, who famously, and in my novel, strode into the ring at Yankee Stadium on August 6, 1933, proudly wearing a Star of David on his boxing trunks, and proceeded to knock out a former heavyweight champion of the world, “Hitler’s Boxer,” Max Schmeling. And after that, I’ll probably be . . . 

Jay's newest book, The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company, will be published in March. Visit his official website here.

Book Cover of the Week: The Fun Parts

Friday, February 22, 2013 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

In Sam Lipsyte's newest collection, The Fun Parts (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), he brings to life a reality-brandishing monster preying on a boy's fantasy realm, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, who makes the most shocking leap imaginable to save her soul, a doomsday hustler, and a grizzled male birth doula, among others. The Fun Parts will be published on March 5th.

View past "Book Cover of the Week" posts here.

New Reviews

Friday, February 22, 2013 | Permalink
This week's reviews:



 

Interview: Ben Katchor and Hand-Drying in America

Thursday, February 21, 2013 | Permalink

In today's installment of the Visiting Scribe for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning, Eddy Portnoy sat down with Ben Katchor to discuss his newest book, Hand-Drying in America: And Other Stories, which will be published by Pantheon Books on March 5th.  

The artist Ben Katchor is a master of a visual urban milieu that echoes post-war New York City, but really isn't that at all. Populated by stocky characters who tramp about and explore an oddly familiar, yet completely invented universe, Katchor’s picture-stories (as he likes to call them) are stirring forays into the urban absurd. The recipient of Guggenheim and MacArthur awards, among others, Katchor creates a kind of visual poetry comprised of everyday artifacts and activities. His ability to bring everyday objects and activities to the forefront of his visual narratives lends his work an imaginative, absurdist quality fired by light switches, peepholes, wheelchair ramps, coat check rooms and invented occupations, like spittoon pump engineers and rhumba line organizers. Katchor sees what we don’t in pedestrian objects and events and crafts short, comic narratives out of them. His books, which include Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer; The Jew of New York, and The Cardboard Valise, are part of his continually expanding oeuvre, which has come to include operas based on a number of his stories.

His most recent publication, Hand-Drying in America, is a compilation of full-color, one-page picture stories that appeared in the urban design and architecture magazine, Metropolis. Like most of his work, they take place in an invented Katchoresque urban world. I sat down with Ben recently to have a meandering discussion about it.

Eddy Portnoy: Your stories are full of unusual names of people and places, are any of them real?
Ben Katchor: It’s strange when someone tells you that you've made a literary, or cultural, reference in a strip to someone you’ve never heard of. It’s something I made up, but then they say that’s the famous Israeli comedian. Somebody wrote a whole thesis centered around the connection between the character, Kishon, in The Jew of New York, and the Israeli writer, Ephraim Kishon, who I had never heard of. I just like the sound of the name, like a cushion or a pillow (in Yiddish). Some, like Harkavy, in The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island, are real references (in this case, to Yiddish author, Alexander Harkavy).

EP: Jewish names and references sometimes pop up in your work. Is there a Jewish component to this book?
BK: Well, only that the the author had parents who grew up in a more traditional, early twentieth century Jewish culture.

EP: Is that reflected in the book? Some of your works have Yiddish references. Are there any here?
BK: I don’t know. A lot of Yiddish words have come into English. I just wanted more to come. It’s a way to introduce new Yiddish words into the English language. Not that I define them, but...well, maybe there’s nothing Jewish anymore in the world.

EP: I think there probably is.
BK: I don’t know. I think it’s a pretty nebulous term. Even historically.

EP: What role did Yiddish play when you were growing up?
BK: It was my father’s language. We lived in Bed-Stuy and most of his friends were Yiddish speakers. There were always Yiddish papers, like the Freiheit in the house. He took me to all these Yiddish cultural events, concerts, lectures, plays, all before the first grade. Those years were a whole life, an eternity. That’s a long time for a little kid, all these incredible events. He would drag me along on errands to the Lower East Side, I used to like to go along. He wanted me to be able to function in Yiddish, but not so much that he forced me to study it. I didn’t really use it, I always spoke English.

EP: Was it a religious household?
BK: No, my father had no interest in organized religion. He was an atheist, a utopian socialist who subscribed to the Freiheit, the Yiddish-language Communist daily paper.

EP: So it was just the secular cultural Jewishness.
BK: Just!? Maybe that’s all there is to it. I think that was an enormous world of cultural activity. I could hear all this Yiddish music, I grew up listening to Yiddish records and we had a library of Yiddish books, and we told jokes from the humor column in the Freiheit.

EP: What role does the city you grew up in play in your work?
BK: Well, Knipl takes place in an imaginary large East Coast city. It may be filled with Jews, but also disciples of a countless cultures and religions of my own invention . . . I guess you could analyze the source of these things in the real world and determine that they could only have been invented by someone who grew up in New York urban circa 1950 to the 1970s. There's an old Knipl strip about a guy playing with the elastic band of his underpants who lives in a union housing project. A good historian could look at that and figure out exactly which union in New York inspired that story. He could analyze the brands of men's underwear available during that period, the hair patterns on the character's body as a sign of a particular ethnicity, and so on. You could probably go into every one of these stories and analyze the details asking, what did Katchor know, what could Katchor know, growing up and how is that unique to his socio-cultural background or milieu. In such an exercise the chances of error are great.

My strips reflect a particular kind of dislocated urban environment. And maybe in a hundred years, you’ll have to annotate these things. After they get rid of all the unions, they’ll say, “what do you mean, ‘The Men’s Underpants Union.’ What does that mean, a ‘union?’”

EP: But a lot of it is also invented.
BK: The kinds of things that have never been recorded in history have to be made up. History only records very narrow slices of what goes on in the world. Nobody wrote about the guy who came to Mordecai Noah's Ararat and was disappointed by the failed scheme. That’s what inspired me to write and draw The Jew of New York. It's so-called historical fiction.

EP: Would you like to conclude by saying something about Hand-Drying in America?
BK: It’s a compilation of fifteen years of short stories about the built world. As I've lived all my life in cities, I can't help but try to find some sense in the way things have been arranged. It's a form of appreciation for a failed world.

Eddy Portnoy teaches Jewish literature and Yiddish language at Rutgers University. Find out more about Ben Katchor here.

A Rabbi’s Tale

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Jay Neugeboren wrote about the art of silence. He will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Some years ago, when I was president of Congregation B’nai Israel, in Northampton, Massachusetts, I wrote a short story I set in my synagogue. Here, Chagall-like, are the story’s opening lines:

When the telephone rang, shortly after three a.m. on a cold, early November morning—Officer Ed Sedowski calling to say that a lost Torah had been found wandering around the local shopping mall—Rabbi Saul Gewirtz was fast asleep on his living room couch, having taken himself there some two hours before, following a fight with his wife Pauline. 

I had a delightful time conjuring up an imaginary rabbi’s life—I rewrote the story several times, published it in a good literary quarterly, and several years later the story became the title story of my third collection, News from the New American Diaspora and Other Tales of Exile. The stories I gathered for this collection spanned most of the twentieth century of Jewish-American life, and in 2005, at the time of the book’s publication, I returned to Northampton to give a reading at the synagogue. (A wandering Jew myself, after 30 years of exile in New England, I had, in 1999, left Northampton and returned to my home town of New York City.)

But many years before this, when the story was a manuscript, I had shown it to our B’nai Israel rabbi, Philip Graubart, himself a marvelous novelist and short story writer. Philip and I were friends, and I asked him to take a look at it, especially because in the story I had detailed a day in Rabbi Saul Gewirtz’s life. In that single day, Rabbi Gewirtz is attacked by a man with AIDS, who spits on the rescued Torah, and accuses the rabbi of being a heartless unforgiving God and smug Jewish doctor rolled into one; he is sexually assaulted and cursed by a female congregant with whom he had once had an affair; he is harangued by a Russian Jewish emigré whose children despise him, and whose wife has left him, and who, weeping away, asks the rabbi why God plays jokes with honest men.

They came and they went: a lesbian couple whose adopted daughter, not yet a year old, was afflicted with leukemia; an Israeli man of seventy-eight whose divorced wife was dying in Israel and who wanted to go there and ask her forgiveness, but was terrified of flying and fearful that his ex-wife would die before he arrived; a fifty-year-old stockbroker, whose father, eighty-three years old and a survivor of Buchenwald, had Alzheimer’s, was perpetually incontinent, refused to wear diapers or to live in a nursing home, and so was sitting day and night in his own piss and shit in the son’s home; a brother and sister, fourteen and fifteen years old, who, victims of a joint custody arrangement in which they stayed in a house that their mother and father took turns visiting, had begun having sex with one another . . .

And on and on it went.

Rabbi Graubart called me a few days later, and suggested we have lunch together. I was nervous—worried he had taken the story personally, and had been offended—but when, at lunch, I asked him what he thought of the story, he said he loved it. When I asked him what he thought of the rabbi’s day, and of the people who came and went from the rabbi’s study, he smiled.

“It seemed like a typical day in my life,” he said.

And then he laughed.

Jay's newest book, The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company, will be published in March. Visit Jay's official website here.

The Art of Silence

Monday, February 18, 2013 | Permalink
Jay Neugeboren is the author of 20 books, including two prize winning novels, two prize-winning non-fiction books, and four collections of award-winning stories. His most recent books are The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company (March 2013) and The Other Side of the World (December 2012). He will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.
 

Although my novel, The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company, is set in the silent film era—it begins in 1915, in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where a a Jewish family that makes one and two reel (silent) films is making a new film on a frozen lake—its origins may lie in the spoken word. When friends ask how and why I came to write a novel about the silent film era, the first answer that comes to mind is that the novel is inspired not by my love of film, but by my childhood love of listening to stories on the radio.

During my years in high school, in Brooklyn in the early fifties, the New York City Board of Education’s radio station, WNYE-FM, regularly broadcast radio programs into elementary, junior high, and high school classrooms. And during those years I was a child/teenage actor at the radio station. I played some wonderful parts—Tom Sawyer, Hans Brinker, Willie the Whale, young Abe Lincoln, et al—and what the director of the station, Marjorie Knudsen, taught me on my first day there has stayed with me throughout my life. The most important element an actor has at his or her command for creating character, she said, were not words, but silence. The way you pause before a word, or between sentences, or after a particular phrase, or in the middle of a word—this, she said, is what makes listeners pay attention so that they can, in their imaginations, transform what they hear—and do not hear—into credible characters and scenes. The mystery of character—and the essence of what made listeners want to know what-happens-next, lay in those moments when there was no sound.

Here, then, from the first page of The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company, Joey Levine, a boy who plays both male and female parts in his family’s movies, and who conjures up the stories that his family turns into movies:

I could make a story out of anything back then—a nail, a glass, a shoe, a tree, a mirror, a button, a window, a wall—and for every story I made up and gave away, I also made one up that I told no one about—one I stored inside me, in the rooms where I kept my most precious memories and pictures.

What Joey is doing, I now realize (I didn’t see or understand this when I was writing the novel, which is told in his voice), is trying to conjure up the seen from the unseen—just as, when listening to the radio as a boy, I conjured up live human beings I could see in my mind’s eye, and to some degree like viewers of silent movies, who had to infer the unseen—the mysteries and complexities of character—from the seen. Viewers, that is, had to infer thoughts and feelings, not from words characters spoke (though there were often titles between scenes where snatches of dialogue were projected onto the screen), but from expressions and gestures the characters made—from closeups of eyes, for example—that told of those silent, inner worlds that were un-seen. In both radio dramas, and silent films, the greatest source of mystery and power—of our attachment and interest in fictional characters—resided in ways to make us sense what we could not see, whether what we saw came to us in images or in sound.

In The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company, Joey is forced into exile, and we follow his cross-country adventures in both time and space—from New Jersey to Wisconsin to California, and from 1915 to 1930. He arrives in Los Angeles at a time when silent movies are giving way to ‘talkies,’ and where his uncle Karl, who directed the family’s movies when Joey was a boy, has become a major producer and director in Hollywood. In the novel’s final chapter, Joey and Joey and Karl sit on a mountain top and look down at a desert that has been the setting for a great battle the day before for the uncle’s cast-of-thouands production of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. And what do these two men do when they look down upon a scene of horrific devastation? It is the end of the Sabbath, and they talk about the sermon they heard in synagogue that morning—they talk about King David and King Solomon, and about God’s ways, and about why it is the rabbis say that on the day the Temple was destroyed, the Messiah was born.

Visit Jay Neugeboren's official website here.

In a Class by Themselves: A Jewish Fiction Reading List

Friday, February 15, 2013 | Permalink
Earlier this week, Michael Lavigne wrote about writing the "Radical Other" and wondered if a writer can take the ego out of writing.He has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

A couple of years ago I decided to lead a group of adult learners in a class on Jewish fiction. The reason was that I wanted to share a few books I loved, and I also wanted an excuse to read some I’d never got around to. It was an amazing experience, both as a teacher and as a reader.

Re-reading some favorites – like Bruno Schulz, Primo Levi and Meir Shalev – only served to deepen my attachment to them. But the writers I’d wanted to get to know – like Clarice Lispector and Joseph Roth – were a revelation. Two or three really stand out in that category. Lispector for certain – nothing in literature is quite like her, and I urge you to read through twice before you judge. But it was Roman Gary who won my heart with his incomparable character Momo – the little Arab kid adopted by the Jewish Rosa – in a work that is simply perfection, there is no other word for it. As for sheer greatness, it has to be Yaakov Shabtai, whose Past Continuous is not only a virtuosic masterpiece, but deeply moving; also truly great is S.Y. Agnon’s Only Yesterday, which is remarkable for its breadth, its unflinching eye, and the beauty of its prose even in translation. Each one of the works I taught has a special place in my heart, and I believe you will also find them gratifying to read or re-read. Bruno Schultz is fundamental – in a class by himself. Dovid Bergelson’s short stories, only recently translated from the Yiddish, and are a mad joy. David Grossman needs no introduction, except I strongly recommend reading Schultz first.

One note. Late in the course, I included Paul Celan, the poet, whose work is soul-wrenching and beyond beautiful. Obviously he is not writing fiction, but I can think of nothing that reflects the transformative nature of the Jewish literary experience better. I recommend the German/English side-by-side edition by Michael Hamburger.

And if you ever want to chat about any of these, I’d be delighted.

Dovid Bergelson, The Shadows of Berlin

Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles

David Grossman, See Under: Love

Aharon Appelfeld, Badenheim 1939

Meir Shalev, The Pigeon and the Boy

Clarice Lispector, Hour of the Star

Roman Gary, The Life Before You (Madame Rosa)

Arnon Grunberg, Phantom Pain

Nathan Englander, The Ministry of Special Cases

Der Nister, The Family Mashber*

Yaakov Shabtai, Past Continuous

Moacyr Scliar, The Centaur in the Garden

Primo Levi, The Periodic Table

Italo Svevo, Zeno's Conscience

S.Y Agnon, Only Yesterday

Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March

Sayed Kashua, Dancing Arabs *

Orly Castel-Bloom, Human Parts

Franz Kafka, The Complete Stories

Paul Celan, Poems of Paul Celan

*Sessions on these two works were led by Igael Gurin-Malous.

Michael Lavigne's first novel, Not Me, was the recipient of the Sami Rohr Prize Choice Award. His newest novel, The Wanting, will be published by Schocken Books on February 26th. Visit Michael on Facebook and visit his official website here.

New Reviews

Friday, February 15, 2013 | Permalink
This week's reviews:

Not Feeling the Candy Hearts? Turn Around Your 50 Shades of Abysmal Gray

Thursday, February 14, 2013 | Permalink
Lisa Alcalay Klug's most recent book, Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe, is now available. She is blogging here today for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.
 

It’s that time of year...chocolates, flowers, jewelry. Sappy advertisements and red and pink store displays. There are reminders everywhere. It’s Valentine’s Day.

Sure, it’s a bit commercial (understatement) but it’s all good. We know that. It’s beautiful to celebrate love.

But what about if you don't have a special someone or even your favorite chocolate already lined up for a great Thursday night? (Or perhaps you have a loving companion but you've somehow lost yourself in the relationship.) Whatever the reason, this day, with its cards and balloons, candy hearts and kitsch, is turning your mood fifty shades of a rather abysmal gray. Instead of bringing you a great sense of joy and intimacy, this so-called celebration feels more about absence or loss. And over the course of a day that seems to have somehow overlooked your very own precious self, you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have a valentine.”

To which we respond, what do you mean you don’t have a valentine?

Of course you have a valentine.

Walk right into the bathroom. Grab a hold of the sink and look up. Yours will be right there waiting, looking you straight in the punim.

Even if you feel very alone at times, you always have a valentine. It’s you.

That’s right. No matter who is or isn’t in your life, you are your own ultimate bashert.

And naturally, you’re fabulous. How lucky you are to have you for a valentine.

Because when you’re very your own valentine, you can celebrate any way you want.

How romantic it would be to buy yourself one perfect red rose. Not a whole bouquet. Just one perfectly closed bud representing your love for yourself. Take this vulnerable darling home and place it in a vase. All it needs is just a little bit of water.

Over the course of a few hours, watch your flower bloom as a symbol of you opening up to the undying expression of your own self love, showing yourself the greatest kindness, compassion and understanding, no matter what life brings.

Choose a song that opens your heart, and helps you dream a little dream, and dance with yourself. That’s right, ignite your own boogie fever. Don’t worry what it looks like. There are no rules here. You don’t even have to watch.

Yes, it's scary to be vulnerable. Even to yourself. But it’s also easy to be your own best valentine, the kind that promises extreme self care, extreme self empathy, extreme self respect. Because when you truly love yourself, every day is Valentine’s Day.

So when you're ready, grab a pen and some paper, or maybe even some broken crayons, and make yourself a good old fashioned valentine. That’s right, make some vows to yourself, to be true to yourself, and be your most authentic self. If you find yourself suddenly tongue tied, feel free to borrow these “Marriage Vows to Me” taken straight from the pages of my book, Hot Mamalah.


It’s true, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of sweethearts. Of relationships. Of your chocolate tooth. We're not denying that. But that doesn't mean it can't also be about celebrating the sweetness of your own life and the most intimate relationship you always have, the one with yourself. Isn't it about time you commit to love, honor and cherish?

Now go on. Get real with yourself and bring a little romance to your game. Valentine’s Day with yourself is EVERY day, forevermore.

That certainly sounds like a great romance to me.

Mazal tov, now you’re a hot mamalah!

How do you know you're a hot mamalah?

Because you don't have to work hard to be hot. You just have to be you. Your most authentic self is the hottest thing of all.

How can you be sure you’re a hot mamalah?

Because a hot mamalah loves and respects herself.

How can you be positively certain you’re a hot mamalah?

Because a real mamalah is her own best valentine, today and every day.

And when you wake up the morning after, how do you remember you're a hot mamalah?

You. Just. Do.

Happy Valentine’s Day, You!

Lisa Alcalay Klug is the author of Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe and Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe.Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Forward and many other publications. Visit her online at lisaklug.com.Twitter @lisaklug | Facebook.com/lisaalcalayklug.

JBC Bookshelf: Valentine's Day

Thursday, February 14, 2013 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

It's been two years since a Valentine's Day edition of JBC Bookshelf. In 2011, we highlighted six titles. Today, we highlight a wide-range of titles from JBC past. Whether your love is a city, a meal, an individual, an animal, or an idea, we're confident that you'll find at least one title below to warm your heart this Valentine's Day:


Heart of the City: Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York, Ariel Sabar (2011, Da Capo Press)
Ariel Sabar explores nine real-life urban romances, each set against the backdrop of an iconic New York City public space

Paris: A Love Story, Kati Marton (2012, Simon & Schuster)
Kati Marton’s newest memoir is a candid exploration of many kinds of love, as well as a love letter to the city of Paris itself

Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance, Michael Bart and Laurel Corona (2008, St. Martin's Press)
A love story that flourished despite the privations of the Ghetto and the partners’ disparate ages and social status

Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed, Leslie Maitland (2012, Other Press)
Leslie Maitland traces the love story of two young people caught up in war-torn France

Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A True Love Story Rediscovered, Trudy Kanter (2012, Scribner)
Trudi Kanter relates the emotional roller coaster she was on in attempting to get to England with her parents and the love of her life

A Titanic Love Story: Ida and Isidor Straus, June Hall McCash (2012, Mercer University Press)
June Hall McCash tells the story of Ida and Isidor Straus, who went to their deaths together on the maiden voyage of the Titanic

If You Awaken Love, Emuna Elon (2007, Toby Press)
A story of unrequited love set in Israel

The Making of Henry, Howard Jacobson (2004, Anchor Books)
A surprising love story involving a sympathetic shiksa and a Henry Nagel's dog

The Lost Wife, Alyson Richman (2011, Berkley)
A powerful love story set in Prague as World War II begins

Shosha: A Novel, Isaac Bashevis Singer (1978, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Shosha is a hauntingly lyrical love story set in Jewish Warsaw on the eve of its annihilation

All Other Nights, Dara Horn (2009, W. W. Norton & Company)
An intelligent love story set during the Civil War

Aimée & Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943, Erica Fischer (1998, Alyson Books)
A unique and tragic love story between two women, set against the Holocaust

Dinner: A Love Story, Jenny Rosenstrach (2012, HarperCollins)
This is a love story about one woman, a family and a ritual

The Brisket Book: A Love Story with Recipes, Stephanie Pierson (2011, Andrews McMeel Publishing)
More than “just” a cookbook, The Brisket Book, includes stories, jokes, cartoons, and photographs