Jew­ish Book Coun­cil is proud to intro­duce read­ers to the five emerg­ing fic­tion authors named as final­ists for the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture. Today, we invite you to learn more about Adam Ehrlich Sachs and his book, Inher­it­ed Dis­or­ders, a hund­ed and sev­en­teen vignettes address­ing the com­plex rela­tion­ship between fathers and sons.

A warm con­grat­u­la­tions to Adam and the oth­er four final­ists: Paul Gold­berg, Idra Novey, Rebec­ca Schiff, and Daniel Tor­day. Join Jew­ish Book Coun­cil on May 3, 2017 at The Jew­ish Muse­um for a dis­cus­sion with the authors and announce­ment of the recip­i­ent of the $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture! Reg­is­ter for free tick­ets here »

What are some of the most chal­leng­ing things about writ­ing fiction?

Find­ing ways to ignore the fact that I’m mak­ing peo­ple up, dress­ing them up, and parad­ing them about, like a crazy per­son or a young child; sum­mon­ing every morn­ing the nec­es­sary state of lucid self-delusion.

What or who has been your inspi­ra­tion for writ­ing fiction?

A small hand­ful of his­tor­i­cal neu­rotics, pre­dom­i­nant­ly Ger­man or Ger­man-Jew­ish, who con­trived their own pri­vate tech­niques for trans­form­ing their neu­roses into com­e­dy or philosophy.

Who is your intend­ed audience?

Con­tem­po­rary neu­rotics and the neu­rotics of the future. Ner­vous Jew­ish Bach enthu­si­asts. Obses­sive-com­pul­sive insom­ni­ac optometrists. Teenagers old enough to look a per­son in the eye when they shake his or her hand yet still for what­ev­er rea­son inca­pable of doing so.

Are you work­ing on any­thing new right now?

Yes, a novel.

What are you read­ing now?

Stan­ley Cavell’s The Claim of Rea­son. From one per­spec­tive, it’s an inquiry into the deep­est prob­lems of exis­tence; from anoth­er, it’s the diary of a fret­ful bour­geois with­out a pro­duc­tive out­let for his ener­gy. That com­bi­na­tion, for me, is the sweet spot.

Top 5 favorite books

At the moment:

The Cas­tle by Franz Kafka

Walk­ing by Thomas Bernhard

Michael Kohlhaas by Hein­rich von Kleist

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Mol­loy by Samuel Beckett

When did you decide to be a writer? Where were you?

Col­lege, the end of senior year, in my dorm room, tear­ing out my hair over a the­sis on hur­ri­cane dynam­ics, while my friends who had decid­ed to give Hol­ly­wood a shot next year were get­ting out­ra­geous­ly drunk. I thought: I want to be that drunk.

What is the moun­tain­top for you — how do you define success?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly I more or less sub­scribe to the Schopen­hauer­ian view that our desires are end­less, each suc­cess only cre­ates new wants, et cetera. I think the most we can hope for is that at our death we have been more suc­cess­ful than our friends, in terms of books sold and awards won.

How do you write — what is your pri­vate modus operan­di? What tal­is­mans, rit­u­als, props do you use to assist you?

I drink two cups of cof­fee, move my cat from my desk chair (her favorite) to the bed, fran­ti­cal­ly flip through my favorite books look­ing for 8 – 10 good sen­tences to remind myself of the task, which some­how I’ve for­got­ten overnight, and then get started.

What do you want read­ers to get out of your book?

I would like for them to feel that some­thing sim­ple has been made need­less­ly com­plex, and to find this, for some rea­son, amusing.

Adam Ehrlich Sachs stud­ied atmos­pher­ic sci­ence at Har­vard, where he wrote for the Har­vard Lam­poon. His fic­tion has appeared in The New York­er, n+1, and McSweeney’s, among oth­er places. He lives with his wife in Pittsburgh.