Essays

The Guide

NEW YORK CITY and I could not have had a better matchmaker. In 1979, sixteen years old, a timid product of a British all-boys private school, I arrived with my family in New York for the first time. I had … Continue reading

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The Improbable Art of Edward Whittemore

“What to make of a book like Nile Shadows, or an author like Edward Whittemore? No matter how determinedly catholic we like to think our literary tastes, there are some works that leave our inner critic feeling uncomfortably at a loss when it first encounters them. “Yes, but is it any good?” it keeps asking with tireless persistence as the rest of us answer that question by happily turning page after page…”

Introductory essay to the 2002 Old Earth Books reprint of Nile Shadows, by the American novelist Edward Whittemore. Whittemore (1923-1995) was the author of five books set in the Middle East that earned him the status of a cult novelist and the praise of his fellow writers. Jonathan Carrroll called him “one of the great masters of magic realism,” and Tom Robbins “one of the best-kept secrets of American literature.” When Nile Shadows originally appeared in 1983, Publishers Weekly hailed it as “one of the most complex and ambitious espionage stories ever written.”

The full text, as well as more details about Edward Whittemore’s life and work, is also available on the fan site, Jerusalem Dreaming.

Jerry

“Jerry was something of a family legend, a pathologically loquacious failed actor who would waltz into their living room every few months—he lived just a few blocks away—and before unpacking his little bag of scissors casually refresh himself from their liquor cabinet with a large shot of whatever was handy. Jerry’s non-stop monologues about his favorite movies and TV shows, the news, his personal life, and anything else that came into his head, turned what should have been a brisk forty-five minute visit into an excruciating marathon. Sometimes it would be three hours before my in-laws, limp with exhaustion, could expel him from their doorstep. Yet because of his undoubted skill and long years of service Jerry had acquired, if not honorary family membership exactly, then at least a tenure of sorts; dispensing with his services was unthinkable…”

A personal essay about haircuts, friendship, errant fathers, and growing up. Originally published in the Journal of Religion and Health, Sringer Publishing, December 2009. Continue reading

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After 9/11-A Diary

Shortly after 9/11, I was invited to take part in a collective reading by a number of writers at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village addressing the events that had just occurred. Of course, such a thing wasn’t really possible, and probably still isn’t nearly ten years later, but looking back at the series of diary entries I read that evening I’m struck by just how much has faded from my memory, which perhaps says something about at least my need to forget in order to carry on life here in the city.

Photo credit: quinn.anya/flckr Continue reading

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