Ruchama King Feuerman’s latest, now in paperback!

For those of you who haven’t yet read Ruchama King Feuerman’s latest novel (maybe because you were frustrated about its original ebook-only release), In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist is now available in paperback.

Haven’t yet added it to your To-Read list, on Goodreads or otherwise? You can learn more about the book through my interview with her or by reading this great review of the book by Risa Miller (a talented Jewish novelist herself).

I think it’s fascinating that the book’s ebook success with readers and critics propelled it to more traditional publication. It will be even more interesting to see how the book sells now that it is more accessible to readers.

This story does not stop here!

For the last week, I’ve been struggling with a major rewrite of a short story. Basically, the character was not so likeable, her journey was boring, and the ending was very, very lame.

The problems with my Lame-O story:

This was already the third or fourth draft of the story. I’d originally written it for a particular venue, who rejected it. Later, it was accepted for a different one, conditional on me completing a satisfactory rewrite.

The main structural changes the editors asked for were the removal of one subplot (and the scenes both where it was introduced and where it was resolved) and a new ending.

I cut out the subplot. No problem. I wasn’t entirely attached to it.

But still not done!

Now my story had a new problem Continue reading

Mormon and Orthodox Jewish writers: Does optimism hold back fine writing?

Mark Oppenheimer, in last Friday’s New York Times, posited that the optimistic attitude embraced by Mormons has prevented them from creating literary fiction. Sure, they have succeeded in Sci-fi (Orson Scott Card), fantasy (Stephanie Meyer), and books for teens and children (Shannon Hale, James Dashner, J. Lloyd Morgan).  But how many Mormon writer’s have won Pulitzers, National Book Awards, Bookers, or Nobels?

Oppenheimer interviewed a number of Mormon writers for his article, and includes some interesting insights:

“It is a fair thing to point out,” said Shannon Hale, a Mormon who writes young adult fiction, “that there have been very prominent Jewish writers that have received a lot of accolades, and worldwide the number of Mormons are comparable to the number of Jews, so why hasn’t that happened?”

Ms. Hale’s theory is that literary fiction tends to exalt the tragic, or the gloomy, while Mormon culture prefers the sunny and optimistic.

And also:

“I’ll tell you why they write young adult,” said Ms. Nunes. “Because they don’t have to write the pages and pages of sex. They don’t want to spend a lot of time in the bedroom.”

Another author pointed out that since Mormon theology strongly identifies with the idea of a Messianic redemption, Mormon writers gravitate towards the “savior motif.”

This all got me thinking. Even though Ms. Hale correctly identified Jews as successful authors of literary fiction, Orthodox writers are not foremost among them (despite examples of some who are, like Ruchama King Feuerman and Risa Miller and even, I’d argue, Bracha Rosman and Henye Meyers). And guess what? Continue reading

In the Courtyard of the Novelist: An interview with Ruchama King Feuerman

I’ve got a treat here today: an interview (conducted via email) with award-winning author, Ruchama King Feuerman. Her latest book, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, just came out in September as an ebook. Recently, she signed a contract to expand the release to paperback. I became acquainted with Ruchama through Tablet Magazine online, where both of us have published essays. She was gracious enough to send me a copy of her new book and even more gracious to answer a few questions the novel left me with.

R.K. – In your first book, Seven Blessings, the central figure is a very strong female character. In this new book, you primarily follow two male, unmarried characters. What was that like for you as a married woman?

new book from Ruchama King Feuerman

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, now out from NYRB LIT

R.K.F.I prefer writing from the male point of view. This way I don’t worry about slippage, about parts of  my personality leaking into my characters, it’s just cleaner — what’s me is me, and what’s them is them.  I feel much freer to invent and have fun when I write as a man.  I do tend to prefer singles maybe because they are inherently dramatic. Continue reading

New Jewish year, new books by Jewish authors!

The new Jewish year is marked this time around with several new book releases that have me very excited:

1) After being mesmerized by The World to Come and In the Image, I can’t wait to read Dara Horn’s newest, A Guide for the Perplexed, which was officially published today. An essay by the author appeared in The New York Times this week, reminding of the book’s release. The topic was the role of memory in literature — particularly in Jewish literature — which Horn tied to Rosh Hashanah. (The holiday falls later this week, and it’s also known as “The Day of Remembrance.”) Her new novel reportedly draws on this theme as it follows two contemporary characters obsessed with the work of the Rambam.

in the courtyard of the kabbalist

Ruchama King Feuerman’s latest, just out

2) Ruchama King Feuerman’s In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist follows an assortment of characters in Jerusalem. I’m very blessed that the author has sent me an advance copy — a review here on the blog will be forthcoming. I was a big fan of her last book, Seven Blessings, as well as some of her more recent, shorter work. Feuerman has been called “a Jewish Jane Austen,” probably because her character portraits so marvelously balance positive and negative qualities. I’m already a few dozen pages in to the new book and really getting into it. For a recent review, see here.

3) Ofir Touche Gafla’s The World of the End will soon be published in English. Continue reading