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JLit Links

Friday, October 08, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Sorry we’ve been so quiet! The National Jewish Book Awards deadline slammed into us this week and we’re sending out some wonderful nominations to the judging panels. Stay tuned for the winners and finalists of this year’s awards in January.

In the meantime, some literary links to keep you going:

And, stay tuned for Gregory Levey’s (How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less: Without Leaving Your Apartment) posts on the JBC/MJL Author Blog series all next week!

Twitter Book Club: The Invisible Bridge

Wednesday, October 06, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Dani Crickman

Join the Jewish Book Council and author Julie Orringer in a live discussion of the novel The Invisible Bridge on Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 12:30 pm- 1:10 pm EST! Follow us @JewishBook and keep an eye on #JBCBooks for updates.

Publisher’s description: Julie Orringer’s astonishing first novel, eagerly awaited since the publication of her heralded best-selling short-story collection, How to Breathe Underwater (“fiercely beautiful”—The New York Times; “unbelievably good”—Monica Ali), is a grand love story set against the backdrop of Budapest and Paris, an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are ravaged by war, and the chronicle of one family’s struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate it.

Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern on the rue de Sévigné. As he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter’s recipient, he becomes privy to a secret history that will alter the course of his own life. Meanwhile, as his elder brother takes up medical studies in Modena and their younger brother leaves school for the stage, Europe’s unfolding tragedy sends each of their lives into terrifying uncertainty. At the end of Andras’s second summer in Paris, all of Europe erupts in a cataclysm of war.

From the small Hungarian town of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the lonely chill of Andras’s room on the rue des Écoles to the deep and enduring connection he discovers on the rue de Sévigné, from the despair of Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in forced labor camps and beyond, The Invisible Bridge tells the story of a love tested by disaster, of brothers whose bonds cannot be broken, of a family shattered and remade in history’s darkest hour, and of the dangerous power of art in a time of war.

Expertly crafted, magnificently written, emotionally haunting, and impossible to put down, The Invisible Bridge resoundingly confirms Julie Orringer’s place as one of today’s most vital and commanding young literary talents.

Visit Julie Orringer’s website for more.

Read reviews from The New York Times and NPR.

What is a Twitter Book Club?

A twitter book club provides the opportunity for twitter users to engage in real time conversation about a particular, predetermined book. The “Twunch and Talk” aims to provide the tweeple with an opportunity to discuss Jewish interest titles with other interested readers electronically.

To participate…

If you aren’t already a Twitter user, please join twitter here. (Confused about Twitter all together? Visit the twitter twitorial. Follow the Jewish Book Council (@jewishbook). During the designated time and date of the “Twunch and Talk” (def Twunch: A loosely organized open invitation lunch meeting among twitter friends) follow the book club conversation by searching for #JBCBooks. If you would like to actively participate, please include #JBCBooks at the end of any comments or questions you wish to contribute.

(Note: New twitter users may have to wait up to a week before their tweets get saved in hashtag searches. Open a twitter account at least a week and a half before this discussion in order to join us!)

Read transcripts from past book clubs.

So pick up a copy of this month’s book club title, read it, and join us for a conversation online! If you have something to say or a question to ask, feel free to jump in, and don’t forget to include #JBCBook at the end of any tweet so that other participants can engage with you.

The Best Part of Traveling

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Martin Fletcher wrote about stories he’s covered for NBC’s London bureau and about choosing a title for his book. His newest book,Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation, is now available.

What I loved about writing Walking Israel was meeting the people I came across during my walk, people I would never normally have come across, and who directed me towards aspects of Israel that had never occurred to me in my 35 years of reporting from there: The tour guide who used the four faces of Akko’s clocktower to show Jews and Arabs the four faces of the truth: “it just depends where you stand”; the botanist whose main goal, when Israel was fighting for its existence in 1948, was to save the sea turtles; the Tunisian and Moroccan Jews sitting around in Roger’s café in Ashkelon who barely budged as rockets landed from Gaza, and said if it was up to them they’d make peace with the Arabs in five minutes but in the meantime “in war, it’s war!”

I loved everything about writing the book: the people I met, the subsequent year of research, and the year of writing and rewriting. But best of all was the reaction of my son after he read the finished work. “Dad,” he said, “next time you go for a long walk somewhere I want to come with you.”

Martin Fletcher spent the last thirty years as NBC News Bureau Chief in Tel Aviv. His second book, Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation, is now available. He has been blogging all week for the JBC/MJL Author Blog.

Field Stories Without Names

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 | Permalink

Yesterday, Martin Fletcher wrote about stories he’s covered for NBC’s London bureau. His newest book, Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation, is now available. He will be blogging all week for the JBC/MJL Visting Scribe.

I’m lousy at titles; I may spend more time thinking about what to call a book than planning its content. But what I’ve discovered is it doesn’t matter much what I think because the publisher decides anyway.

The title I decided on, after much anguish, for my first book about my reporting career was “The Exploding Cow and the River of Death,” which related to two of the stories in the book. That kind of black humor is a tradition for journalist memoirs. My favorite such title is Edward Behr’s 1985 book Anyone Here Been Raped and Speaks English? It refers to a journalist in the Congo who came across a group of Belgian nuns who had been raped and shouted the question.

If anyone thinks he made up the line, that nobody could be so crass as to ask such a question, trust me, it’s possible. I was there when journalists in Zimbabwe were sticking microphones into the face of a nun who had been raped and an American UPI journalist asked her, “Yes, but did he ejaculate inside you?” Apparently that related to a New York law concerning the statutory definition of rape.

My cow exploded when I was interviewing a Kosovar refugee who had been forced by Serbs to dig holes for landmines in a field. As we spoke to him on camera a cow trod on a mine and flew into the air above his head. The river of death was the Kagera river that flows into the Rusomo Falls in Rwanda; we watched the bodies of dozens of murdered Tutsis float downriver and over the Falls.

Hence my title. The publisher decided on the more mundane “Breaking News.”

The title I favored for my latest book, which is structured around a trek I made along the entire coast of Israel, from Lebanon to Gaza, came from my idea of doing the journey with my son. I would call the book The Father, the Son and the Holy Coast. But the publisher decided that title could antagonize Christians, and anyway my son wouldn’t come with me.

So it’s called Walking Israel. I did an Amazon search to find out how many books are named “Walking…something” and came up with 27,956.

Publishers have a lot more experience than I do of naming books, and it’s true that, being British, I tend towards the tabloidy, tongue-in-cheek, teaser which may not go down so well in America.

And anyway, all I really care about is the content.

But the title is the first attention-getter, followed closely by the cover design. And what I find strange, given that this is actually the author’s book, is that the two key marketing factors are outside the control of the author.

Still, I can only bow to the publisher’s experience, and my contractual obligation, and allow others to decide how my book will be presented. I hate that stuff anyway.

Martin Fletcher spent the last thirty years as NBC News Bureau Chief in Tel Aviv. His second book, Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation, is now available.

From Serious News to the Tabloids

Monday, September 27, 2010 | Permalink

Martin Fletcher’s newest book, Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation, will be available tomorrow. He will be blogging all week for the JBC/MJL Author Blog.

I left NBC News to write books. Which explains why I quickly found myself back on their doorstep, begging for work – paid work.

But I didn’t expect this. Here are a few of the stories I’ve reported on as a freelancer in NBC’s London bureau in the last few weeks: a shark attack in Australia, an internet blogger accused of rape in Sweden, a British woman who dumped a cat in the garbage bin, another British woman who urinated on a war memorial, a spy’s sexy photo shoot in Russia. The high point, literally, was going up in a hot air balloon with a glass floor which crashed on landing and came within three yards of being dragged into a river. All network stories.

It wasn’t the kind of writing I imagined when I resigned in December, but guess what? I love it: all the silliness, the bad puns, the tabloid humor. I found myself chuckling as I wrote about Bad British Babes and the cold war femme fatale who’s hot! And sighing at the mandatory lurid speculation when a British spy was found stuffed inside a sports bag in the bath.

The thing is, they’re good stories that people care about, and I began to think that maybe reporting on them wasn’t so different from writing books, or even from reporting serious news. After all, it’s all about telling stories about people in a way that other people will care about.

That’s really all I wanted to do with my new book Walking Israel. I wanted to get away from seeing Israel only through a single prism, that of the conflict with the Arabs, and see the country for what it really is: a fascinating place with fascinating people whose lives are so much more than just a people at war.

People were always phoning me and asking if it was safe to visit Israel. I would say yes, and then they’d call me after a week in Israel and say, wow, what a great place, I had no idea. And so I wanted to write a book about that great place about which so many people have no idea.

I walked along the coast, from Lebanon to Gaza, meeting Israelis of all kinds, Jews and Arabs, and followed up on their stories for a year. And although I’ve reported from Israel for close to thirty years, I’ve never enjoyed any research or writing as much as working on this book. And I hope that I have presented Israel in an entirely new light.

Martin Fletcher spent the last thirty years as NBC News Bureau Chief in Tel Aviv. His second book, Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation, will be available tomorrow.

JLit Links

Monday, September 20, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Favorite Fictional Jewish Characters

Thursday, September 16, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

In honor of Rosh Hashanah (and in time for Yom Kippur), The Huffington Post (and HuffPost readers) share their favorite Jewish fictional characters:

HuffPost Picks

HuffPost’s Readers’ Picks

Have a few to add? Let us know!

Etgar Keret on n+1

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

n+1 offers a preview of Etgar Keret's latest book of short storiesSuddenly a Knock at the Door, not yet published in English, here. “Black and Blue” is translated from the Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger.

In the ER they said the bone was fractured and the muscle was nearly torn in two places. Some people, the doctor said, can walk away from a 50-mile-an-hour head-on collision without a scratch. Once there was this woman who arrived in the ER, a fat lady who’d fallen out of her third-floor apartment onto the asphalt, and all she had was a black and blue mark on her backside. Read On.

Jewish Book Carnival!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

This month’s Jewish Book Carnival was just posted over at the JPS Blog. As always, there are some great Jewish literary posts to check out, including recent books about the fall holidays from AJL, The Jewish Manuscript Project over at JBooks, and Erika Dreifus’ conversation with Allison Amend. Check out all of the great links here.

And, stay tuned for next month’s Jewish Book Carnvial…we’re hosting!

My Other Baby

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | Permalink

On Monday, Gal Beckerman wrote about barbecuing with hijackers. His first book, When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry, is now available. Gal, a staff writer at the Forward, will be blogging for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning’s Visiting Scribe all week.

I’ve repeated it so many times these past few months that I don’t even think about it anymore. “I had two babies this year,” I’ll say, smiling widely. Or sometimes I’ll hold up the book and say, “Here’s my other baby.” I try to avoid the line if my wife is anywhere nearby.

It’s both a cliché and a kind of reflex at this point – both reasons to drop the whole baby thing altogether. It also feels like something a woman who’s gone through labor might not utter so glibly. And yet, I can’t give it up. It’s hard to untangle my feelings about how the book and my baby started life – my editor actually called me while I was at the hospital because I was late to deliver (!) the manuscript. It’s always felt more than just a thoughtless metaphor for me.

But now that my daughter is almost turning one and my book has made its way onto the shelves of bookstores, maybe it’s time to test if the comparison actually stands up.

Gestation period: Hands down, the book wins if we’re talking about time. I started working on it over five years ago, before I even met the mother of my little girl. It involved hours upon hours of research in archives and oral interviews. And beyond the work, there was the anxiety. There was plenty of that to go around while my wife’s belly grew, but it was concentrated in a distinct – and relatively short – period of time. Anxiety for the book took different forms at different times over the years, and it was always waiting for me around the corner, even at my most confident moments.

Seeing her/it for the first time: Since I had no idea what she would look like and had not slept all night and my wife had gone through an intense labor that involved her yelling at me about getting rid of various things in the room whose smells she couldn’t stand, I would say that the first sight of the book was a more controlled and predictable thing. My editor and I had been discussing the cover for months, then I saw the galley, and by the time the actual book came in the mail, it was thrilling (of course), but not the earth shattering event I had always fantasized about. It was already familiar to me. And as time passes it becomes even more familiar as an object, while my daughter’s face becomes more a thing of crazy wonder to me every day (it’s a little like this writer’s response to the book vs. baby question).

Fourth trimester: This is long over for my daughter, but I’m at the tail end of it with the book. It’s the three-month period after a baby is born when they are more blob than human. It’s before you really know what her personality will be, before she can interact in any way besides screaming uncontrollably. It made me a bit impatient. The analogous time for the book is once everything is done and before it is actually published, reviewed, received by the world. You are waiting and hoping and worried that your book might be ignored, that it will fall in the vast cultural forest without making a sound. All I can hope for now is that the end of that period for the book is as rewarding as it was when my daughter’s personality began to manifest itself.

These days she’s a mischief- maker and a collector of every speck of dust and stray Cheerio hidden in the corners of our small one-bedroom apartment, exclaiming “wow!” with gusto whenever she discovers something. If only reading my reviews fills me with as much joy as hearing those “wows”!

When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone is now available.