On Mon­day, Michael Wex wrote about the birth of his idea for his new nov­el The Frumkiss Fam­i­ly Busi­ness. He will be blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

It’s noth­ing to com­plain about, real­ly. Ever since word got out that I’m sup­posed to know some­thing about Yid­dish, I’ve been receiv­ing scores of e‑mails every week. Most are very nice; some­one has read some­thing that I’ve writ­ten and wants to let me know that they’ve enjoyed it. Some of the cor­re­spon­dents even enclose their own sto­ries about spe­cif­ic Yid­dish words or phras­es, rem­i­nis­cences of things that their par­ents or grand­par­ents used to say.

These are good. Now that snail mail from any­body but billing depart­ments and lawyers is pret­ty much a thing of the past, e‑mails of this type help to give authors the feel­ing that they haven’t been work­ing in vain.

Not every­thing is so pleas­ant, though. Some e‑mails claim that I don’t know Yid­dish, that I’m a dis­grace to the entire Jew­ish peo­ple. I’ve yet to receive an e‑mail of this type with a cor­rect cor­rec­tion.” Most authors enjoy these kinds of e‑mails; they read them out loud to their author friends, usu­al­ly some­place where alco­hol is being served. Every­body has a good laugh, espe­cial­ly when the dis­grun­tled e‑mailer admits to hav­ing bor­rowed the book from the library.

And then there are the real nud­niks. Like the guy who want­ed me to read his grandson’s high school essay on Elie Wiesel and feel free to make any changes that [I] think nec­es­sary.” Like the nov­el­ist” who sent me a page of dia­logue that he want­ed trans­lat­ed into Yid­dish; he was pre­pared to put my name on the acknowl­edg­ments page of his book, just as soon as he could find a pub­lish­er. Like the woman who asked for the ori­gin” of the word shikse. I wrote back and told her on what pages in which of my books she could find a detailed expla­na­tion of the ori­gins, devel­op­ment and var­i­ous uses of the word. Her response? I want­ed the ori­gin and you gave me page num­bers. Thanks for noth­ing. Some­body told me you were an expert. Some God­damed [sic] expert you turned out to be.”

And my all-time favourite, this one via tele­phone: Would you speak to an audi­ence of 400 den­tists for 400 dol­lars?” I explained that, at a dol­lar per den­tist for the lec­ture, the 400 den­tists would be pay­ing ten times as much to park their cars as they’d be pay­ing for me. Yeah, but what else have you got to do on a Sun­day morn­ing?”
I was hop­ing for a free root canal.”
I could hear the den­tist breath­ing.
No? No dis­count?” I asked. Then I sug­gest you get the park­ing lot guy to enter­tain you – – him, at least, you’re will­ing to pay.”
How dare you? No one has ever been this rude to me.”
That makes two of us,” I told him and said goodbye.

Exact­ly a week lat­er, the den­tist called back. He want­ed to know if I’d changed my mind.

Come back all week to read Michael Wex’s blog posts. His new nov­el, The Frumkiss Fam­i­ly Busi­ness, is now available.