The ProsenPeople

The Poetry Writing Process

Wednesday, April 06, 2011 | Permalink

Marina Blitshteyn is the author of the new poetry chapbook Russian for Lovers. In her earlier post, she wrote about the origin of Russian for Lovers. She will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Visiting Scribe.

A confession about my writing/editing process: I have none. Which is to say, I wish I could say something about how regimented I’d been with this project, working a select number of days on select letters, sending drafts to my editor for proofing, receiving feedback, editing, sending them back. The truth is this was my first real long thing up for publication, so I’m surprised it’s even finished, let alone published.

As soon as I get an idea, I obsess over it, work on it religiously for a while, then come to a point that resembles a crossroads. Then I don’t know where to go. So ordinarily I put it aside until one fine day I figure it will come to me. Because Liz, my dear friend and editor at Argos Books, got invested in the project, I couldn’t put it aside for too long. I vowed to myself that I’d work on it last summer, but of course that didn’t happen.

There was only a brief glimmer of promise when I did a series of performances at the Infringement Festival in Buffalo, NY. My first performance had to do with conjuring up my memories of the old country, immigration and acculturation. My second performance was a brief Russian alphabet lesson, and the third component was a reading from the manuscript so far. I figured this would help me imagine the project and I was right to a certain extent. I worked on Russian for Lovers during this one-week stretch. But the progress was slow and not enough to make me feel good about the end product.

Then school happened again. Liz was a great motivating force, and I had no excuses anymore because I was given a deadline. I ended up rewriting the beginning letters as themes and threads started emerging towards the middle and end of the alphabet.

I’m still not satisfied with the last pieces but Liz gave me permission and appreciated the chapbook form for being a little more ragged. And naturally it doesn’t really feel ‘done’ but that’s a certain year-long frame of mind of entering into these questions and I like to think it marks the beginning of my engagement with longer projects and my own history.

Marina Blitshteyn is the author of Russian for Lovers. Come back all week to read her blog posts.

Quiet Americans, A Week From Today

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Dani Crickman

Our Quiet Americans Twitter Book Club discussion with Erika Dreifus is next Tuesday, April 12th! 12:30-1:10 EST. #JBCBooks

(Personal endorsement: I read the first two stories on the subway this morning, and they are fantastic.)

Some useful links as the day draws closer:

J Lit Links

Monday, April 04, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

The Origin of Russian for Lovers

Monday, April 04, 2011 | Permalink

Marina Blitshteyn is the author of the new poetry chapbook Russian for Lovers. She will be blogging all week for the Visiting Scribe.

It was my first semester in the MFA program and I was having a hard time, as can be the case. I was in the shower one day and it occurred to me I wanted to write an alphabet book to help my American lover learn Russian faster.

He’d been expressing interest in the language, picking up some words and phrases here and there, so I figured I could work out a little side-project from all the MFA work I was supposed to be doing. I planned on going letter by letter, making each poem revolve around the sound of that letter so he could learn it better.

I started composing A in the shower. I wanted to have the letter A be the only vowel in the piece. Needless to say, when I put it to the page it didn’t look as good as it sounded in my head while it was being shampooed. So I scrapped that idea and allowed other vowels in. A ended up having many different versions; I had to go back and re-do the beginning a bunch of times.

Russian for Lovers was originally only about love; it was supposed to be about a long-distance relationship and a communication divide. Soon enough I started thinking about larger ideas like the fact that we speak Russian in my house, my family’s journey to the States, my own relationship with my place of birth.

Interestingly, I’d never written poems about these questions before. And then “Love in Moldova” came out of me, and it sounded angry and hurt and I figured there was an emotional core to this project that extended beyond a personal relationship to a loved one and into more political and cultural concerns.

Marina Blitshteyn is the author of Russian for Lovers. Come back all week to read her blog posts.

100th Anniversary of Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 | Permalink

A few days behind on this one, but never too late to share some of the great content from the Forward. To commemorate and honor the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire the Forward published a special section last week. The section included the first-ever translations of the Jewish Daily Forward‘s original Yiddish coverage of the event, including the front page of March 25, 1911, the day of the fire.

The special section also includes an original essay from David Von Drehle, author of Triangle: The Fire That Changed America, as well as the winners of its Triangle Fire Poetry Contest, a prize poetry contest that the Forward held earlier this year to elicit  submissions for both an English and Yiddish poem to honor the poetry of Morris Rosenfeld who documented the fire at the time and to reflect upon the fire’s meaning and legacy.The winner of the English poem was Zackary Sholem Berger of Baltimore, MD and the winner of the Yiddish section was Alec (“Leyzer”) Burko of New York City.

NYC Event: Howard Jacobson at NYPL (Discount Code)

Friday, March 25, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

LIVE from the NYPL presents

Howard Jacobson in conversation with Paul Holdengraber

Friday, April 1st at 7PM in the Celeste Bartos Forum of The New York Public Library

$25 General Admission
ENTER DISCOUNT CODE: LAUGH to purchase tickets for just $15

1.888.71.TICKETS (1.888.718.4253)
http://www.showclix.com/event/17889/

When Howard Jacobson won the Man Booker prize for The Finkler Question last autumn it was hailed as a victory for the comic novel. ‘Except that I write tragic novels,’ Jacobson declared. But he is nonetheless gratified that Jonathan Safran Foer said of him ‘I don’t know a funnier writer alive.’ Being funny should go without saying if you’re a novelist, Jacobson insists. In conversation with Paul Holdengräber, Harold Jacobson will discuss why any novelist who doesn’t make you laugh is short-changing you.

So what makes Howard Jacobson laugh?

· Ping pong, for a start but that doesn’t mean I don’t take it
seriously.
· Ditto being Jewish.
· Ditto being English and Jewish.
· Ditto masochistic sex.
· The novel that preceded The Finkler Question is about a man who wants his wife to be unfaithful to him, and the hero of The Mighty Walzer plays ping pong to lose. But then we don’t read or write novels, Jacobson argues, if we aren’t half in love with losing.

HOWARD JACOBSON is the author of eight novels, including The Mighty Walzer which won the 1999 Everyman Wodehouse Award for comic writing and The Finkler Question which won the Man Booker Prize last autumn.

PAUL HOLDENGRABER is the Director of LIVE from the NYPL.

Sarah’s Key: The Movie

Thursday, March 24, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Sarah’s Key (Tatiana de Rosnay) will hit the big screens in July:

April 6th

Thursday, March 24, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

April 6th is a big day for Jewish literature in NYC this year. Not only is it the evening of the Symphony Space event with Etgar Keret and Jonathan Safran Foer, but you can also check out the following events:

2011 Sami Rohr Prize Winner Announced

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | Permalink


AUSTIN RATNER WINS

THE $100,000 2011 SAMI ROHR PRIZE FOR JEWISH LITERATURE

FOR DEBUT NOVEL THE JUMP ARTIST

2011 AWARD CEREMONY TO BE HELD MAY 31 IN NEW YORK CITY

March 22, 2011 (New York, NY) – The Jewish Book Council today named Austin Ratner the winner of the $100,000 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature in fiction for his debut novel The Jump Artist (Bellevue Literary Press ). The Jewish Book Council is also pleased to announce Joseph Skibell, author of A Curable Romantic (Algonquin Books), isthe 2011 runner-up and recipient of the $25,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Choice Award. Established in 2006, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature is the largest monetary award of its kind given to writers of exceptional talent and promise in early career.

Hailed as a transformative award for emerging writers, the annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature honors the contribution of contemporary writers in the exploration and transmission of Jewish values and is intended to encourage and promote outstanding writing of Jewish interest in the future. Fiction and non-fiction books are considered in alternate years.

The Jump Artist was featured in Publishers Weekly in spring 2009 as one of 10 promising debut novels.  Based on the true story of Phillipe Halsman, a man who Adolf Hitler knew by name, who Sigmund Freud wrote about in 1930, and who put Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Life magazine, the novel has been called “a remarkable work…[that] documents a triumph of the human spirit over tremendous adversity” (Harper’s Magazine), and an “elegantly written tribute [that] makes as beautiful a use of the darkness and light of one man’s life as a Halsman photograph of a pretty young woman” (GQ).

The finalists for the fifth annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature are:

Allison Amend – Stations West (Louisiana State University Press)

Nadia KalmanThe Cosmopolitans (Livingston Press)

Julie OrringerThe Invisible Bridge (Knopf)

By virtue of being named a Rohr Prize finalist, these writers are welcomed into the fellowship of a foremost Jewish literary community. The winners, finalists, judges and advisory board members of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature meet biennially at the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, a forum devoted to the continuity of Jewish literature. The Institute, run under the auspices of the Jewish Book Council, creates an environment in which established and emerging writers can meet and exchange ideas and perspectives. Within a short period of time, the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute has become an important meeting place for the leading lights of the American Jewish literary world.

For more information about The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, please click here!

JBC Bookshelf: Baseball Edition

Monday, March 21, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Batter up! With spring training underway and baseball season fast approaching, we have a few “Jews and Baseball” titles to throw your way:

Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball, Rebecca T. Alpert (July 2011, Oxford University Press)
A look at the many-faceted relationship between Jews and black baseball in Jim Crown America

Pitching in the Promised Land: A Story of the First and Only Season in the Israel Baseball League, Aaron Pribble (April 2011, University of Nebraska Press)
Israel’s only season of professional baseball boasted an unforgettable cast of characters: a DJ/street artist third baseman from teh Brox, a wildman catcher from Australia, the journeymen Dominicans who were much older than they claimed to be, and even Sandy Koufax

Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn’t Want to Be One , Mark Kurlansky (March 2011, Yale University Press)
Kurlansky explores the truth behind the slugger’s legend: his Bronx boyhood, his spectacular discipline as an aspiring ballplayer, the complexity of his decision not to play on Yom Kippur, and the cultural context of virulent anti-Semitism in which his career played out

Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg, Shelley Sommer (March 2011, Boyds Mill Press)
Young adults, 10 and up, will be able to enjoy this biography of Hank Greenberg, which includes archival photos

Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King, Richard Michelson; Zachary Pullen, illus. (February 2011, Sleeping Bear Press)
Award-winning author Richard Michelson chronicles the meteoric rise of one of baseball’s earliest (and unsung) champions