Ear­li­er this week, Thane Rosen­baum gave us a lit­tle flash­back to Mia­mi Beach, 1972 and how E. L. Doc­torow inspired his new nov­el How Sweet It Is! He has been blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series.

Near­ly twen­ty years ago I pub­lished my first book, a nov­el-in-sto­ries, Eli­jah Vis­i­ble. It fol­lowed, in post­mod­ern fash­ion, Adam Pos­ner, a child of Holo­caust sur­vivors, who appeared through­out the book in dif­fer­ent guis­es and geo­graph­ic loca­tions; even his age and occu­pa­tions var­ied with each chap­ter. The sto­ry was not told in chrono­log­i­cal order; the inver­sion of time and space, the frac­tur­ing of real­i­ty and imag­i­na­tion, were among the many con­tra­dic­tions that appeared with near­ly every turn of page. The names of his par­ents were dif­fer­ent with each sto­ry, too. The only con­stant was that, in each tale, they were soon to die, or were already dead.

The book received the Edward Lewis Wal­lant Award for Best Book of Jew­ish Fic­tion. Three oth­er nov­els would fol­low. But I nev­er got Adam Pos­ner out of my head. For one thing, his sto­ry felt incom­plete. There were oth­er Adam Pos­ner tales I want­ed to tell; the nine chap­ters of Eli­jah Vis­i­ble, a delib­er­ate half of chai, was not enough. And since the chap­ters rolled out with­out log­i­cal coher­ence, the nov­el end­ed when Adam Pos­ner was in kinder­garten in Wash­ing­ton Heights, dur­ing a bliz­zard. The ear­li­er chap­ters that depict­ed his man­hood didn’t set up the sto­ry for such a stormy conclusion. 

Two of the chap­ters stood out from the rest, how­ev­er. In one, Adam Pos­ner is a boy grow­ing up in Mia­mi Beach; in the oth­er he is look­ing back on his child­hood in Mia­mi Beach. In both chap­ters the sto­ry was less about him than the more col­or­ful and charis­mat­ic fig­ures to whom he was exposed, and who cause him to rethink some of the assump­tions he has made about his par­ents, their past, and the future that lay in store for the entire Pos­ner fam­i­ly — pro­vid­ed they have the audac­i­ty to imag­ine a future at all.

Some of the reviews that the book received sin­gled out these two Mia­mi Beach tales — not just because of their scenic locale, but because the island city had a mag­i­cal hold upon the Pos­ner fam­i­ly. Mia­mi Beach pre­sent­ed itself like a pic­ture post­card, but behind the sun­shine lurked cloud cov­er that revealed truths about the Pos­ners that they were only halt­ing­ly will­ing to receive. 

It was where the young Adam, the first man, observed the world in which he was born, and deter­mined that despite all that had been lost, Mia­mi Beach was a place where Jack­ie Glea­son was right to pro­claim, How Sweet It Is!

Thane Rosen­baum is the author of the crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed nov­els, The Stranger With­in Sarah Stein, The Golems of Gotham, Sec­ond Hand Smoke, and the nov­el-in-sto­ries, Eli­jah Vis­i­ble, which received the Edward Lewis Wal­lant Award for the best book of Jew­ish Amer­i­can fic­tion. His arti­cles, reviews and essays appear fre­quent­ly in many nation­al pub­li­ca­tions includ­ing The New York Times, Wall Street Jour­nal, Wash­ing­ton Post, and The Huff­in­g­ton Post. He is a Senior Fel­low at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law where he directs the Forum on Law, Cul­ture & Soci­ety. For more infor­ma­tion vis­it http://​www​.thanerosen​baum​.com/.

Relat­ed Content:

Thane Rosen­baum is an essay­ist, nov­el­ist, and law pro­fes­sor. His arti­cles, reviews, and essays appear fre­quent­ly in The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, The Wash­ing­ton Post, Los Ange­les Times, CNN, The Dai­ly Beast, and oth­er nation­al pub­li­ca­tions. He serves as the Legal Ana­lyst for CBS News Radio, and mod­er­ates The Talk Show” at the 92nd Street Y, an annu­al series on cul­ture, world events, and pol­i­tics. He has been invit­ed to give pub­lic lec­tures around the world. He is a Dis­tin­guished Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­fes­sor at Touro Col­lege, where he directs the Forum on Law, Cul­ture & Soci­ety. Rosen­baum is the author of Pay­back: The Case for Revenge, and The Myth of Moral Jus­tice: Why Our Legal Sys­tem Fails to Do What’s Right, and is the edi­tor of the anthol­o­gy Law Lit: From Atti­cus Finch to The Prac­tice: A Col­lec­tion of Great Writ­ing about the Law. He has also pub­lished five nov­els includ­ing The Golems of Gotham and Sec­ond Hand Smoke.