The ProsenPeople

Genetic Memory: Feeling Jewish

Friday, August 17, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Doreen Carvajal wrote about trying to recover her family's secret identity and how to unlock and preserve memories. She has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Earlier this summer, I mingled among a group of amateur and professional genealogists at an international Paris conference exploring the study of Jewish roots. A fascinating question emerged: is the history of all our ancestors somehow a part of us? Does genetic memory exist?

There are scientific studies exploring what we inherit in unexpected ways through epigenetics, a chemical network in our cells that controls genes, switching them on and off. At the core of this field is the notion that genes have a memory and that the lives of our great grandparents – what they breathed, saw and ate – can directly affect us decades later. Ongoing studies in Sweden are examining statistics about famine and abundant harvests to determine the impact on the health of descendants four generations later. Researchers, for instance, found a statistical link between the increased longevity of the descendants of paternal grandfathers who had lived through a period of famine while young.

I'm intrigued by the notion that generations pass on particular survival skills and, perhaps, an unconscious sense of identity that stands the test of centuries. In the case of my own Catholic Carvajal family, I wonder what prompted them to guard the secret of their Sephardic Jewish identity for generations long after the Spanish Inquisition that prompted them to flee to Costa Rica in Central America.

In the 1990’s, Jerusalem psychotherapist Dina Wardi worked with children of Holocaust survivors and developed the theory that survivor parents typically designated certain children as “memorial candles” who took on the mission of serving as a link to preserve the past and connect the future. The children of survivors who actively struggled against the Nazis, she found, had a strong compulsive ambition to achieve.

A similar strategy existed among the Anusim, Hebrew for the forced ones who converted to Christianity to survive during the Inquisition. Usually elder women took the role of passing on information about their secret identity to particular younger family members. In our family, the historian was my great Aunt Luz – which means light in Spanish.

At one seminar on genealogy, a speaker, Jonina Duker, talked about a phenomenon of "the blood calls" among Anusim to describe how they find their way back to the mainstream of Jewish people.

Recently, a Spaniard named Fernando Carvajal Acebal contacted me from Madrid after reading something I had written and spotting our shared Sephardic Jewish name, Carvajal. He tried to explain the feeling that he said has lingered with him since he was a young Catholic. His mother told him he started insisting he was Jewish when he was about six years old.

"Nobody transmitted this feeling to me," he told me. "I could have felt I was a Muslim, but I always felt profoundly that I was Jewish. I would say this intimate feeling is almost genetic, an emotion that tells me, yes, you are a Catholic, but do not forget that you are Jewish. I have a deep Christian faith and I pray every day. I do not know the Jewish rites, their customs, or roots. But it does not stop me from feeling Jewish."

Visit Doreen Carvajal's official website here.

New Reviews

Friday, August 17, 2012 | Permalink

This week's reviews:



 

Unlocking Memories

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Doreen Carvajal wrote about trying to recover her family's secret identity. She will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Most everyone has a family tree. But how do you turn a dry chart of birth and death dates into something more vibrant that can be shared for generations? Turn into a reporter. And then preserve the story in a compelling way.

By writing about my own family mystery with my first book, The Forgetting River, I wanted to share the story of the secret Sephardic Jewish identity of the Catholic Carvajals in a way that could introduce ancestors to descendants.

I'm a journalist by trade, but I made many mistakes along my own journey to explore my family. A basic lesson I learned was to start early to interview relatives about personal family history. By the time I began to probe our past, key relatives with vital information had died.

But one of the most crucial mistakes I made was that I lost my own journalistic skepticism when I questioned family members about delicate subjects. I didn't gather much information when I asked directly if we were the descendants of Marranos, forced Christian converts who maintained a dual identity to escape persecution during the Spanish Inquisition. To probe sensitive family history, I realized belatedly that it's best to work from the edges. Think. Watch. Observe. I asked benign questions and searched for records that allowed information to seep out about customs, household rituals, job patterns, prayers. I found that the older generation sometimes confided more in their grandchildren and nieces than their own children. From this strategy, I learned about a hidden menorah kept in a bedroom dresser or fourth cousins marrying fourth cousins, an almost tribal habit of trusted secret Marrano families intermarrying and maintaining the appearance of being Catholics.

Lately, I've been thinking about other strategies that families can exploit to start conversations and unlock memories. An acquaintance organized a family reunion for a large black family on the East Coast with some painful history dating back to slavery. Some relatives were reluctant to remember those times, but they settled on the idea of creating a griot cookbook, asking relatives for family recipes along with submissions of personal memories evoked by the dishes. The griot is a reference to a traditional West African storyteller.

Once conversations start flowing, seize the opportunity. Make a recording. The StoryCorps is a non-profit organization that offers advice about preserving personal history, down to suggested conversation openers (What is your earliest memory? What are the most important lessons you've learned in life?).

For the finale – and a gift to future generations – make a digital slide show with a soundtrack that mixes music and their words. There are many iPad applications that allow amateur genealogists to turn into multi-media producers. Make sure the slide is show is about two minutes and focus on a time or a story that can lead to more conversations.

Visit Doreen Carvajal's official website here.

Hunting Family Ghosts

Monday, August 13, 2012 | Permalink

Doreen Carvajal's first book, The Forgetting River, is about her search to recover her Catholic family's hidden Sephardic Jewish roots in a mystical white pueblo on Spain's southern frontier in Andalusia. She will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

The moment the cardboard box from New York arrived, I felt a strange mixture of elation and melancholy. The package was stacked with copies of my first book, a memoir, The Forgetting River.

I examined the hardcover like checking a new baby, counting the pages, smoothing the cover, reading the tribute and rereading my first sentences that I think I must have rewritten more than 100 times since I started my quest. It's a universal story of personal discovery, my journey to reclaim the secret Sephardic Jewish identity of my Catholic Carvajal family in a white pueblo on a high ridge in the southern frontier of Spain.

Everyone has a mystery in the family tree and this was mine. Now I feel wistful as a I look over the last chapter because I long to keep adding new information. Unbeknownst to me, my older cousin, Rosie, revealed a few days ago that she had questioned my great aunt Luz in San Jose, Costa Rica at a family gathering before she died in 1998. Aunt Luz, which literally means the light, was the careful historian of family lore, typical of Anusim – Hebrew for forced Christian converts dating back to the Spanish Inquisition. The Anusim or Marranos – which in Spanish literally means pigs – typically relied on elder women to pass on their secrets.

“Luz told me that our family came from Spain,” Rosie wrote to me. “She asked me: ‘Has your mother ever told you that we are Sefarditos?' Of course when I brought it up to my mother, she refused to talk. Come to think of it, I actually took a small tape recorder and without their knowledge recorded our conversation.”

When I read those words, I felt chills. One of my biggest regrets about trying to recover my family’s secret identity is that for years I missed numerous opportunities to gather information from older generations because I was simply not curious about our past. To bring life to a chart of a family tree, I realized belatedly that conversations have to happen to tell a vivid story to pass on to new generations. Indirect approaches need to be pursued to tackle delicate subjects. I discovered all this by making many mistakes.

Rosie’s late mother – my aunt and godmother – had always been interested in my book research. I had asked her several times about our family history and secret Jewish background, but she told me politely that she knew nothing. “My mother knew, but was too diplomatic with you to say she didn’t want to talk,” Rosie said. “When I brought it up, she absolutely refused to comment. I knew that she knew something.”

Today I’m preparing to mail copies of my new book to relatives in California and Costa Rica – too late to write another chapter with tape recorded quotes of a voice from the grave.

Visit Doreen Carvajal's official website here.

Self-Surveillance

Friday, August 10, 2012 | Permalink
In this week's installment of the Visiting Scribe, Joshua Cohen and Justin Taylor exchanged ideas around book promotion, materials of writing, and the devolution of the author. Read Part I here and Part II here. They have been blogging here all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

 

Justin,

I like this idea of the computer being an “extension of [your] bedroom.” But I’m not sure it’s extended enough. Because for me it’s an extension of my bedroom as well, and of yours also, which is to say of Amanda’s too—sorry if that’s creepster.

What I mean is, I’m going to hold you to your Hendrix promise. He deserves more than 45 min.

I can only say that I wish I shared the options of your optimism with regard to the (other) options available. I would like to say the computer has enlarged my world in a positive way, but that would mean my assent to the idea that enlargement-of-world (TK Heideggerian German compound) is or could be positive. Rather to bastardize Wittgenstein I’m convinced that the opposite, not the world, is everything that is the case. I am too much the information addict, too much the hoarder. My head’s an uptown brownstone tenanted by the bros. Collyer, who’ve recently stopped paying rent.

My only hope, I tell myself, is surveillance, self-surveillance. So much of my life is lived under the sign of this limitation, this autorestriction. In the same way I can’t be around drugs, because I’ll take them. All of them. I’ll never keep a firearm in the house (the apartment, I mean, not the Collyer cortex). This is one feature of my personality it’s painful to admit to my parents/siblings/romantic partners and friends/myself, but !unsurprisingly! less painful to admit in an email to be posted on a blog to be read by googolions, including, I’d assume, my parents/siblings/romantic partners and friends. Myself. One way I have of explaining this unsurprise is through fiction: If I write it, then it can’t be true, ergo it is not true. Another way is through nonfiction: By writing it, I have freed myself to live a fiction (denial). Regardless, it’s a fact that there’s never been an access I haven’t advantaged. It’s also a fact that I derive a certain pleasure from the intropunitive. I feel like, lamb spines aside, I should be paying you by the hour.

It’s out of this regulatory impulse that I wrote Four New Messages—what I told you on that drive up to that crazy Jewish bookery outside Amherst still holds (I was being “honest”). These messages were meant to be instructional, exemplary: “Emission” telling you to be careful about what you say, anything and everything will be held against you not in the divine court/congregation/community marketplace, but everywhere—even by strangers, who are the freshest gods. “McDonald’s” exchanges a sacred fear of words—the Tetragrammaton, for instance—for a profane fear of being labeled “the type of guy who lunches at/writes fiction using the word McDonald’s.” It’s an exercise in typing—not with the keyboard but with the mind: typology. “The College Borough” warns against exogenous ambition: beware of challenging the world. “Sent” warns against endogenous ambition: beware of challenging one’s self. It’s a depressing msg, further burdened with a don’t mistake the real for the virtual sermon straight out of Antiquity, whose transmission was also “wireless.” A crude summation, but at your request and, again, I can’t help myself.

I’ve always loved “the cautionary tale”—stories wherein a hero’s felled by worst weaknesses in a fashion so schematic as to put the lie to art. From Aesop to Belloc’s travesties, to Der Struwwelpeter (my father’s favorite book growing up) to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (one of my own childhood favs), these are moral works not just because they contain morals but because of why they were written, or what they were written for/instead of (their justification) (raison d’êtiolation): implicit in all of them, in their very bound being, is this auxiliary lesson that it’s good to make good art, but it’s even better to save a soul. That’s why I chose the title, which rings to me like a companion to How Much Land Does a Man Need? or What Is To Be Done?

Of course I understand how deep my tongue is in everyone’s cheek with all this didactic pedantic pedagogical ethical shit. Obviously too I believe in art, good words (gospels) in good sentences, and haven’t yet discalced the Nikes to go a’begging. But the impulse remains: I needed rules for myself, I wanted rules, and these are they—narratized only because it was never the blank prose of the NJ criminal law code that kept me out of trouble, but the case histories of strangers, acquaintances, friends.

I’d like to conclude by noting that writing itself developed this way (the Book Council will appreciate this, trust me): the ten commandments appear only in the second book of the Bible, condensing a Genesis that less efficiently, but more effectively, formulates/dramatizes what happens when you take a life, lie, cheat, covet.

We’ll sacrifice our lambs on the morrow and dedicate all but their spines to yud hey vuv hey,

j

Joshua Cohen is the author of Witz, A Heaven of Others, Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto and, most recently, Four New Messages (Graywolf Press). He is the New Books critic forHarper's Magazine.

Justin Taylor is the author of the story collection Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and the novel The Gospel of Anarchy. He lives in Brooklyn and teaches at the Pratt Institute.

New Reviews

Friday, August 10, 2012 | Permalink

This week's reviews:



 

Book Cover of the Week: In Beauty Bright

Thursday, August 09, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

National Jewish Book Award Winner Gerald Stern's latest collection of poetry will be published next month by W. W. Norton:

Love & Death: Greatest Hits

Wednesday, August 08, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Love & Death: Greatest Hits, which was published by Tres Chicas Books in 2011, is a collaboration between "co-conspirators, friends for over twenty-five years, and founders of Tres Chicas Books Renée Gregorio, Joan Logghe, and Miriam Sagan." The trio write about love, death, and friendship and aim to "create not just a book but a sense of community."

Love & Death: Greatest Hits is a winner of a 2011 New Mexico Book Award in Poetry.

What follows is a selected poem from the collection, written by Joan Logghe, Santa Fe's Poet Laureate.

Dark Train Pulling

You, I haven’t seen since the turn of the century.
There was a train then, always about to depart.
Or a letter traveling across Europe by rail.
A boat full of people who all looked forward
towards a better life of tailor shops and diamonds,
away from the small villages of Estonia.

In the old country, you lived in Hungary
But you weren’t Hungarian. Russia,
But you weren’t Russian. You were only a Jew
And not allowed to purchase land.
I want you like my people wanted soil.
That was the trick, my wanting and your no.

Denial works to wed a past to longing.
And now, like a promised land, you arrive.
Startling horizon, your suitcase,
something foreign stamped on the side.
A message I’ve needed all my life,
“Lose everything,” it says, “You know how.”

You arrived from the other country,
the past, dark train pulling, sparks over coal.
At death, there’s another tunnel.
Of all the faces and the bright light,
yours will still beckon towards a bliss.
My dark hair, your dark hair, an America.


Quality Grumbling

Wednesday, August 08, 2012 | Permalink
In this installment of the Visiting Scribe, Joshua Cohen and Justin Taylor exchange ideas around book promotion, materials of writing, and the devolution of the author. Read Part I of their exchange here. They will be blogging here all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

 

Justin,

This is what I’ve come to expect from you—this level trust of gut. It’s one of your best qualities—both as a writer and a friend. And it’s a quality I frankly covet for myself. When you write that it doesn’t bother you to “use the same computer to type [your] fictions as [you] do to write [me] a note about where to lunch on Sunday,” my commonsense alert goes off and I get depressed and crawl into a corner where I smoke and drink icewater and lament my preciosity. (Both you and I know I could have used the word “preciousness.”)

So I’m chastened, but still some quivering gelatinous part of me—say, my knee—wants to maintain that there’s an element of computerwriting that somehow eludes analogizing with writers of the past using the same pen to draft both a shopping list and War and Peace Redux. The computer, for me, has always had a business aspect, or, better, what the MBAs might call an opportunity cost. It seems to professionalize me in ways that disgust. It does this by insisting, by its boxy gray existence alone, the concept that my writing might, will, one day be public. Now my conscious mind knows this, my conscious mind craves this, but I’m not sure that the conscious mind is the best of all minds, for me, to be writing with. I need to fool myself to write. To tell myself nothing matters, no one cares, I don’t care. That the desk and chair I’m describing has nothing to do not only with the desk and chair I’m occupying but with all possible desks (escritoires) and all possible chairs (Aerons) I might access online.

Not that the escritoires and Aerons haven’t helped me, but the computer compels me toward that help.

So yes, yes, our conclusion might be the same: the problem “is not with the tool but with the user.” But then the very moment I agree to agree, Heidegger jumps me with his Ge-Stell, or “enframing”: the artist makes the tool until the tool makes the artist. I fantasize, whenever I make a mess of my life, that all equanimities and pragmatisms are just technological enframings of a natural frenzy.

Here, I’ve searched it up for us: http://ssbothwell.com/documents/ebooksclub.org__The_Question_Concerning_Technology_and
_Other_Essays.pdf

This, though, is from The Discourse on Thinking:

“Still we can act otherwise. We can use technical devices, and yet with proper use also keep ourselves so free of them, that we may let go of them any time. We can use technical devices as they ought to be used, and also let them alone as something which does not affect our inner and real core. We can affirm the unavoidable use of technical devices, and also deny them the right to dominate us, and so to warp, confuse, and lay waste our nature.

“But will not saying both yes and no this way to technical devices make our relation to technology ambivalent and insecure? On the contrary! Our relation to technology will become wonderfully simple and relaxed. We let technical devices enter our daily life, and at the same time leave them outside, that is, let them alone, as things which are nothing absolute but remain dependent upon something higher. I would call this comportment toward technology which expresses ‘yes’ and at the same time ‘no,’ by an old word, releasement-toward-things.”

In Heidegger’s day I would’ve been too lazy, or too dead, to have typed this out. Thank God for copy/paste.

The German for “releasement” (indeed, Heidegger/his translators, John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund, could have used “release”) is Gelassenheit.

That’s a good old word to repeat while waiting for the F Train at 4AM.

My tone question was related, in a sense. The computer gives us so many selves, or gives us the option of being so many selves, that what’s needed—or what I need—is some variety of Gelassenheit from a core personality, or from the idea of a core personality. It’s my inability to release—let’s please release all the sex from that verb—that makes me wary of publicity. You’ve asked me to articulate a guiding policy or principle for peddling one’s own book, but that’s what I’d wanted from you—but that’s what you’ve given me. Your formulations are sound, especially this one: “Anything you’re willing to say ‘Yes’ to and actually do, you can be responsible for.”

That sounds, I am serious, like something Jesus would’ve said, had he taken a correspondence course in logical positivism.

I’ll end with the concept you find most interesting—the one I find most interesting too—at least a concept we both can address without getting too bijou philosophical or maudlin: Voice.

It’s true that voice has been troubling me lately. I seem to have become more social/engaged than ever—I have many friends, I read many things—but when it comes to writing I’ve lost any inkling of what one can assume when addressing a reader (or, for that matter, a friend). No, no, I haven’t lost that old power o’assumption—I never had it—and it’s only because I’ve become so friended and am reading so much that I’ve noticed, very recently, this lack.

Lately I’ve found myself very much taken with two ways of writing: very general and direct, not fablespeak but more like late Tolstoy, and very specific and personal/private, oblique, think diaries (Dostoyevsky’s, Pepys’s), letters (Byron’s), think of unbooks, unplanned, accidental, collations (often posthumous, often not intended for publication) of whateverthefuck by Canetti, and, oy, Kafka. Notebooks by Tennessee Williams, Ashbery. Anything in the middle reads, I was about to write “mediumsized,” but more like a sales pitch, an upsell beyond all comprehension. This might be Quality Grumbling—me complaining about contemporary writing without the skill to convince—this might even be Reality Hunger, with a side of fries, but I suspect—pace David Shields—that both those appetites are subsumable under a single rubric: we don’t know how to address one another anymore. Because maybe there isn’t an “other.” Maybe there are only fragments of a “one.” It could be that childhood, for everyone, was more whole and coherent. And that growing up is just this superdistracting superdistractible search for someone or something else. The keywords are “Sie und du,” “monoamine oxidase inhibitors,” “Saturday Night Function (Ellington-Bigard),” and “Gershon Sirota.”

Google “Gelassenheit”—the site autocompletes with “gelastic seizure”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelastic_seizure

j






Josh,

“The artist makes the tool until the tool makes the artist”—this is undoubtedly true, and it complicates the argument I was trying to advance with my perhaps somewhat pat examples, but I’m not sure that my entire line of thinking is negated by the admission that the relationship between the user and what he uses is one of reciprocal modification. I don’t share your sense that the computer has an ineluctable aura of “business” about it. Growing up, there was almost always a computer in my house. I can say with something like complete confidence that I was the first of my childhood friends to ever go online—onto Compuserve, via a 14400 baud modem that we hooked into the house’s only phone line. I also played a lot of video games as a kid, mostly on consoles, because we only had one computer—it lived in the family room—and my father was very wary of any activity that might damage it (keyboards don’t stand up to punishment quite the same way Nintendo controllers do). Later, when I got my own computer in my very own room, the feeling was not unlike getting my first stereo, or, for that matter, my first little writing desk. What I mean is that it didn’t feel limiting, it felt freeing. Here was something that was all mine that I could use however and for whatever I wanted to without asking permission, waiting my turn, or having someone look over my shoulder while I did it. The computer was an extension of the bedroom itself—another space, this one virtual, over which I had exclusive dominion, could personalize after my own taste, and which expanded the range of work and play activities available to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever quite gotten over that feeling. I know so many writers who say that they can’t work at home, so they go to coffee shops, libraries, even pay to rent office space—this is a problem I’ve never had. When Amanda and I got this apartment back in February it came with a home office. This is probably the first time in my writing life that there hasn’t been a direct sightline to my workspace from my bed. A good thing, to be sure, but it’s taken a while to get used to.

None of which is to say that I’m unambivalent about the computer, only my ambivalence locates itself elsewhere than where yours seems to. My last year of high school I spent a lot of time online—in part because I was feeling very done with my hometown and in part because better technology made more things possible and I was interested in seeing what they were. I IM’ed with people I could have just as easily been on the phone with, I hung around Grateful Dead message boards looking for people to trade tapes with (cassette tapes!—sent through the U.S. mail). I downloaded lots of dirty pictures, and I played a massive-multiplayer online role playing game, where you had to team up with strangers you met in the virtual fantasy world and fight an unending battle against whatever was around. This, to me, is an example of “the tool making the user”—I felt it and could acknowledge it even as it was taking place—but I’ve switched my “user” back in for your “artist” because I’m not sure whether the re-making effect ever extended to my art. If I were writing a memoir, I might speculate at length about the effect of the computer on various aspects of my life (sexual, social, etc.) but suffice here to say that once I got to college, re-situated in a place and with a group of people I liked, whose artistic and political interests I either shared or adopted, I stopped doing most of the aforementioned online activities, because the point of all that shit had been to assuage loneliness and/or pass time, and now I had places to go and people to see.

All of which, I guess, is to say, that the computer has never seemed to me to have a developmental role in the way I make or think about my art. Rather, art is—among many other things—the arena in which I can process/analyze/interrogate the role the computer plays in the other areas of my life. Which brings us around to your book. Two of the stories in Four New Messages are explicitly concerned with the impact of the way the virtual and meatspace worlds inform each other. In “Emission,” the main character, a drug dealer, does something sleazy at a house party, which gets converted into salacious web gossip, gunks up his Google-ability, and basically ruins his life. Which is truly saying something since his life was something of a ruin to start with. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Richard Monomian’s original transgression is in any sense redeemed or excused, but as the story progresses there is a sense that the punishment has outmatched the original crime. Though of course “the punishment” itself doesn’t seem to be purposefully delivered—it’s an unplanned side-effect of the reporting party’s use of the web as reporting medium. In “Sent” there’s a kind of reciprocal feedback between the virtual and the physical. That novella opens with what might be my favorite episode from this collection, and one of my favorite pieces of yours in general: the history of a bed from the time it was a tree in a forest, hundreds of years ago in Russia, taken through its chopping and carving and generations of ownership until it finally ends up as the “stage” for a cheap amateur (or “amateur-style”) porno that gets posted on the internet, where it’s viewed by an American manboy of our own era, who becomes so obsessed with the “starlet” he watches on the virtual screen that he decides to try and track her down in real life.

But all four stories engage with aspects of “the way we live now.” “The College Borough” is as fine a satire of creative writing-as-academic-discipline as I think I’ve ever seen. “McDonald's” attempts to resist the total penetration of our lives and selves by branding language/ideology: it goes on a kind of hunger strike from the corporate lexicon, and delirium ensues. I love the book, in no small part because it feels so straightforward—not light, per se, but certainly more inviting than your previous novel, Witz. Which, for the record, I loved very much—it was a great challenge and pleasure, on so many levels—but going from Witz to Four New Messages reminded me of DeLillo going from Underworld to The Body Artist and then Cosmopolis. Did it feel good, with the Great Big Book behind you, to get back to the story/novella form? How did you go about gathering these disparate tales together around their several central themes? If I was going to be a total shit about it, and entreat you to tell me, in your own words, what this book is “about,” what would you say? Actually, it occurs to me that I did get you to do this once before—when you were working on “Emission” and we were driving back from the reading at the Jewish book store in Massachusetts, I remember you describing the piece to me before I had ever read a draft of it, and that you said your intention was, in a limited but real sense, pedagogical. That the story would be offered in the tradition of the advice-narrative, in which the fiction illustrates a familiar contemporary problem, to which it offers both a solution and a moral. Do you still feel that “Emission” works this way? Would you say that the book as a whole does, or that it can? Why isn’t your book called “How Should a Person Be?,” or since that’s taken, “How a Person Should Be”?

JT

Read Part III of Joshua and Justin's conversation here.

Joshua Cohen is the author of Witz, A Heaven of Others, Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto and, most recently, Four New Messages (Graywolf Press). He is the New Books critic forHarper's Magazine.

Justin Taylor is the author of the story collection Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and the novel The Gospel of Anarchy. He lives in Brooklyn and teaches at the Pratt Institute.

New Children's Reviews

Tuesday, August 07, 2012 | Permalink

Find the complete list of new children's reviews here.



Now