The four readings we have selected revolve around reality and what it really means. Is it non-fiction? Or is it fiction based in real life? Or as John Lennon said “The more real you get the more unreal the world gets. ”
Carol Zoref’s Barren Island explores the dilemma of remembering a world that no longer exists. How do the moral imperatives to do so correspond to the personal needs that make it possible? Told from the point-of-view of Marta Eisenstein Lane on the occasion of her 80th birthday, Barren Island is the story of a factory island in New York’s Jamaica Bay, where the city’s dead horses and other large animals were rendered into glue and fertilizer from the mid-19th century until the 1930’s. The island itself is as central to the story as the members of the Jewish, Greek, Italian, Irish, and African-American communities. The writing is captivating, as the characters who shine, despite living their entire lives steeped in the smell of burning animal flesh.
In Stephen Landau’s English translation of Maitree Limpichart’s Lives of Thai Temple Boys, the subject matter is intriguing and wide-ranging, as a sampling of the stories illustrates: the quirkiness of a feminine boy (Order and Propriety in the Temple), conflicting Thai and Western notions of nudity (Life at the Water Faucet), parental death and loss (A Telegram from Home), perseverance and dedication (The Remarkable Mr. Ying), and the personality who stands out and marches to the beat of his own drummer (Ai Neuk and More About Ai Neuk).
In The Write Treatment Anthology, edited by Emily Rubin, we find an inspirational collection of stories, personal essays, and poems. All of the texts are written by participants in the Write Treatment Workshops at Mount Sinai Cancer Center, in New York. The book is a testament to the writing process as solace and empowerment in troubling times. Taking chances, making hard choices, and embracing humor are all part of life with cancer. As the author has discovered in the workshops, it’s also essential to writing.
“Super” is an excerpt from Susan Kleinman’s new collection, still unpublished. It will be part of a new book of linked short stories. As the author says: “No matter how different my stories may seem on the surface – some are funny, some are sad – the characters and their predicaments vary widely. They’re all, in some way, about the gulf between what people think is going on in their lives or in the world around them anb what the reality of a situation is.”