Bruce Jay Friedman shares the inspiration behind his latest book, The Peace Process: A Novella and Stories as a Visiting Scribe this week on The ProsenPeople.
Where do stories come from? A whim, an impulse, an observation. Some stories simply “happen,” alight on the shoulder, like a butterfly. A man, on the night of his honeymoon, meets a woman and realizes that he’s taken the wrong bride. A freeway driver hears the radio announcer say that there have been 800 Labor Day fatalities, which is close to the record. He yearns for the record to be broken. Yet another man helps an elderly woman home in the rain, and feels an irresistible urge to snatch a diamond pendant from her neck.
Some stories arise from voluminous reading, others from simply waking up in the morning and going about one’s business. In the lives of each of us, there will always be something that is unusual, that isn’t quite right. Most shrug it off; the writer pounces.
Once, in Jerusalem, at the King David Hotel, I was approached by an Arab room service attendant who begged me to help him escape from Israel so he could attend his brother’s wedding in Kew Gardens, Queens. I couldn’t help him, but the brief encounter stayed with me, and became the seedbed of my new book, The Peace Process. William Kleiner suffers a near-death accident in Jerusalem. An Arab, Mahmoud, rescues him, obligating Kleiner to arrange for and to join him in his escape to Queens. Throughout their torturous journey, the two fight, embrace, infuriate one another, and struggle for some mutual understanding. In many ways, their dilemma exemplifies the actual diplomatic peace process, as it groans along in the Middle East. The book, if the author is permitted to say so, is maddeningly funny.
Bruce Jay Friedman is a novelist, short story writer, playwright, memoirist, and screenwriter, widely considered one of the finest black humorists of American literature.