Haley Tanner’s debut novel, “Vaclav & Lena” (Dial Press), is about love without questions, hesitation or limits. This love flourishes between two Russian-Jewish immigrant children in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn: Vaclav dreams of becoming a magician, like Houdini, and casting the fragile Lena as his assistant. Tragedy temporarily unhinges this plan, and when the two children become teenagers, they are forced to reconcile their pasts and decide how they’ll embark on a future together. Tanner intimately knows the love and struggle that Vaclav and Lena share: She wrote this book while living with the man who would become her husband and, soon after, die of melanoma. Tanner says that the loveliness and lightness in the novel is his. She spoke recently with the Forward.
Meg Wolitzer writes in spaces where women’s emotions run high: She has tackled wives overshadowed by their husbands, as well as career woman who became stay-at-home moms. In her new novel, “The Uncoupling” (Riverhead), she investigates sex by creating characters who stop having it altogether when a spell enchants their suburb. The magic begins — or ends, depending on how you see it — when a drama teacher produces the Aristophanes comedy “Lysistrata,” in which women withhold sex from men to protest war. The Forward’s Allison Gaudet Yarrow spoke to Wolitzer about describing mobile devices as sex objects, the loud, second-wave feminist Jewess and not writing chick lit.
Matthew Sharpe is the author of a story collection and four novels. His most recent is “You Were Wrong,” published last summer by Bloomsbury USA. He spoke to Allison Yarrow about writing of a suburban house, his Jewish sensibility and Kafka’s inexplicit religious authority.
From the Borscht Belt to poop jokes, Jewish comedy comes in many forms, and Michael Showalter has a little of both in his repertoire. The comedian, who wrote and starred in the films “The Baxter” and “Wet Hot American Summer,” has lent his many gifts to his new “humoir,” “Mr. Funny Pants” (Grand Central Publishing), which plumbs his “latchkey” suburban upbringing via self-deprecating humor. He spoke with the Forward’s Allison Gaudet Yarrow about his self-conscious comedy and the Jews who dig it, and about his spiritual encounter with a mitzvah van.
Sharon Salzberg co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass., and has taught spirituality and meditation for 35 years. By the time she was 16, she had lived in five different family configurations, and each had ended in trauma. Feeling alone led her to India when she was 18. There she discovered the Buddhist teachings that have shaped her life, though she still connects to her Jewish roots. Salzberg’s new book, “Real Happiness” (Workman), is a guide to meditation practice. A contingent of beginners (celebrities, journalists, finance types) is trying out this practice and blogging about it. Read an excerpt from the interview here.
Thirty-two-year-old writer and humorist Sloane Crosley has published two books of essays on topics ranging from what not to do in the office (bake cookies shaped like the boss) to how to attend an Alaskan wedding (armed with the definition of “scat”; it means “bear feces”). She spoke to the Forward’s Allison Gaudet Yarrow about her Jewish cred (her grandmother dated actor Zero Mostel), the backhanded compliments given by men to clever women and making readable art out of her life. Crosley’s most recent collection, “How Did You Get This Number” (Riverhead), a compilation of nine satirical essays, is scheduled for release May 3.
They mess you up, your siblings. That’s one takeaway from a new book of essays on the subject of brothers and sisters, “Freud’s Blind Spot,” edited by Elisa Albert. In it, writers dissect what scientists call the horizontal relationships that so shape us but are often ignored.
“Saving the world” is a loaded proposition. The children of the 1980s and ‘90s, who heard that phrase have come of age and are often called apathetic, self-absorbed and quietly glued to their screens.
Nicole Krauss is having banner year. The author of the novels “The History of Love” (W. W. Norton & Company, 2006) and “Man Walks into a Room” (Anchor, 2003) was named one of the New Yorker’s 20 under 40 fiction writers and her new novel, “Great House,” came out the same month it was nominated for a National Book Award. “Great House” weaves together characters who have been shaped by loss and who work to create meaning by piecing together rooms, families and the shards of themselves.
In this week’s Yid Lit Podcast, debut author Adam Levin discusses his novel “The Instructions.” The story follows a 10-year-old scholar and weapons expert with a messiah complex who, after getting kicked out of two yeshivas, stages a coup with a band of Israelites in his secular school after his identity is questioned and he falls in love.