Fic­tion

Nec­es­sary Stories

  • Review
By – February 8, 2017

Once con­sid­ered less­er than their dis­tin­guished cousin, the lit­er­ary nov­el, short sto­ry col­lec­tions are inch­ing toward the spot­light. Main­stream pub­lish­ing has wel­comed recent releas­es from the likes of Jef­frey Eugenides, Hura­ki Muraka­mi and, go fig­ure, Tom Hanks.

Enter Haim Watz­man, an Amer­i­can-born and edu­cat­ed jour­nal­ist who made aliyah in 1978. In addi­tion to writ­ing and blog­ging, Watz­man has become the go-to author­i­ty on Hebrew to Eng­lish trans­la­tion and has worked on the man­u­scripts of Amos Oz and David Gross­man, among oth­ers. In 2008, The Jerusalem Report invit­ed him to con­tribute a bi-week­ly col­umn on a sub­ject of his choos­ing, assum­ing he would mine his per­son­al life as he had with his pre­vi­ous book, a mem­oir titled Com­pa­ny C: An American’s Life as a Cit­i­zen-Sol­dier in Israel. Instead, he decid­ed to write short fic­tion, and end­ed up gain­ing a ded­i­cat­ed following.

Nec­es­sary Sto­ries, named after that col­umn, includes twen­ty-four of the one hun­dred plus Watz­man wrote for The Jerusalem Report. The read­er is intro­duced to a daz­zling array of col­or­ful char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions about life in mod­ern Israel and con­tem­po­rary Judaism.

In one mov­ing sto­ry, Sin Offer­ing,” Watz­man imag­ines an inter­ac­tion between a des­per­ate Sudanese moth­er and a group of IDF sol­diers. In Pos­ses­sion,” he bounces to teenagers in the Cleve­land sub­urbs bak­ing cook­ies while their divorced moth­er rumi­nates over a ter­ri­ble secret involv­ing her rab­bi. Equal­ly at home in these two worlds as well as the many oth­ers he out­lines for the read­er, Watz­man rais­es issues involv­ing mar­riage, par­ent­ing, death, duty, tra­di­tion, tech­nol­o­gy and immigration.

An obser­vant mod­ern Ortho­dox Jew and a cham­pi­on for social jus­tice, Watzman’s tone is that of a sea­soned sage. He may not be writ­ing per­son­al essays, but the themes in his short sto­ries are cer­tain­ly personal.

Amy Oringel is a free­lance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Busi­ness­Week, and The For­ward.

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