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November 21 , 2009




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Under Western Eyes

Set in the tumultuous political world of Tsarist repression and revolutionary intrigue in St Petersburg and Geneva, Under Western Eyes (1911) renders with searing intensity the psychological torment of its Russian protagonist, a university student who, in betraying another, has betrayed himself. Based upon a comparison of the existing manuscript…

Many of these stories hark back more than fifty years, unwritten stories that lived in me the way stories do, as a bit of memory – a certain smell, the turn of a head, or the particular sound of a voice. Or, in the case of “Love, Mona,” in a quilted dime-store night table and a sleeping Mexican painted on a cupboard door.

My Brooklyn stories were told through the eyes of a child growing up with the rumble of the El along 86th Street, walking with her mother in her big-shouldered mouton coat, as she did her errands and talked with the shopkeepers. The walkup apartment house where she lived with her family, the damp steamy smell of the lobby where the metal taps on her shoes made a satisfying clicking sound as she ran up and down the marble steps. The seamstress in her apartment building, her friend’s father who seldom spoke, the people her parents knew, the relatives – her ear pressed to the wall, hearing talk that was not for her to hear – the people they spoke of in Yiddish so the child would not understand.

Decades later, they called to me, the memory of them morphing, changing, altering, becoming characters that were and were not them. And I kept writing about the loving and sometimes mysterious bonds of family. I dressed my characters, gave them habits and a particular way to speak, and put them down on the pages, wanting things they could not have, remembering things they wanted to forget. They mended and they sewed, they owned stores and boutiques, they jerry-made contraptions and carved dollhouse furniture. They dug in the dirt and planted tomatoes, they hunted for bear and did a jigsaw puzzle in a far off mountain cabin. Makers and fixers, they had the creative qualities derived from my parents and passed down to me.

Beginning with Frances, the young child grieving for her mother in “Love, Mona,” these stories come full circle to Rusty in “Feminine Products,” pregnant but unmarried, desperate to make a family for her unborn child. Family is a recurrent theme in my stories.

I hope they keep you turning pages, interested and entertained as the characters become ‘altered’ by their circumstances and continue to make their way in life.

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