Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Call for Stories: Bride of the Golem: An Anthology of Humorous Jewish Horror

I will be editing the book "Bride of the Golem: An Anthology of Humorous Jewish Horror" and am seeking stories to include in it.

The stories can employ a new Jewish twist on a mainstream horror theme (e.g. a tale about a Hassidic vampire mohel or about the Lubbavitchers reanimating Rebbe Schneerson). Or they can reinterpret horrific elements in classical Jewish folklore like the Golem or dybbuk. Or they can venture into entirely new territory.

Stories of this genre that I like: Etgar Keret's "Quanta", Shulamit Hareven's "The Emissary", Shalom Auslander's "Prophet's Dilemma" and Nathan Englander's "Reb Kringle," to name just a few.

Requirements are the following:
1) The story should be humorous.
2) The content of the story should have some connection to Jewish culture deeper than the names of the main characters. Subtle references to Talmud, the prayerbook, Midrash are very welcome, though not required. You don't have to be Jewish to submit, but it helps if you have some prior knowledge of Jewish traditions.
3) It is preferrably unpublished, though I will consider reprints in some cases if the reprint rights are easily negotiated. I will also consider translations of stories from other languages if the rights are easily secured.
4) The length can vary from 500 words to 10,000.
5) The story should be well-written. I shouldn't have to say this.
6) The story should be forwarded to me via e-mail: with the words "Bride of the Golem Submission" in the subject line. Word docs are fine, but not docx format. I prefer doublespaced, 12 point in a readable font. The document should be paginated with your name and title at the bottom of each page. The first page or cover page should include your contact information. You can include a brief bio (up to 250 words) in the body of your submission e-mail.
7) Simultaneous submissions are fine. Let me know immediately if the story is accepted elsewhere.

Here's how the process will work:
I am looking for 10-12 publishable stories by new and upcoming authors, and I will see that you are paid $500 for your story, though it may take some time for you to receive your payment as I have to get an agent and publisher on board with this project. I will also solicit 2-4 stories by better-known authors in order to make this volume a bestseller at Jewish book fairs.

Short Stories

I hope to someday compile a list of short stories I enjoyed. The genre is often overlooked as novels are much more prestigious.

At the very top of my list will be Ingeborg Bachmann's "Undine Goes." Her marvelously poetic prose inspired me to write two short stories of my own, one of which comprises Hans' response to Undine, the narrator of Bachmann's story.

Another I read recently is "The Genie Lamp" by Carolyn Watson. It appears in Slice Magazine, issue 6.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I received an e-mail from Gotham Writers about an event in the Upper East side yesterday. The authors of "The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published" teamed up with a pair of literary agents to hold an American-idol style contest in which people had one minute to pitch their book proposal before them, the crowd, and the rolling cameras.

I attended, for I've recently had the idea to edit a collection of thematically related short stories--Bride of the Golem--an anthology of humorous Jewish horror. However, after standing in line and entering the room it was explained that only those who just purchased the book were eligible to pitch, and not wanting to feel pressured into buying a book I might not need, I declined to do so, and instead watched the procedings with amused detachment.

Twenty-two people pitched their books. Some sounded absolutely dreadful, others, intriguing. First I'll cover the dreck, then the dazzling, the swine before the pearls.

Of the 22, three had already self-published their books. Do they really think a different publisher will republish their works?

Also, three of the 22 were novels involving presidential assassination attempts, though, thankfully, not of our current president. One monotone mumbler described his scenario--a female is elected president, then women's suffrage is repealed, then a civil war of sorts, and in his words, the book becomes like Orwell's 1984 meets Cormack McCarthy's The Road. One of the three assassination novels might actually work, depending on the quality of the writing--it is about a Puerto Rican man who attempts to bump off President Truman.

One of the self-published geniuses is a caucasian who works as a school counselor. He's compiled quotes and pearls of wisdom from African-Americans from Frederick Douglass to President Obama, in a collection titled African-American Core Values. While I don't think his project is republishable in its current format, I have to laud his efforts to reach our city's youth and inspire them.

Self-help and enlightenment books made up three of the 22 proposals. One is a 19-volume Path to Peace by a space cadet who was not ready to take the microphone when her turn arrived, so she went later. Another proposal is "Goddess Entrepreneur", a guide to nonaggressive success using your feminine essence. The author is a transformational life coach. The third of this type was "Coincidentally Charmed" an inspirational autobiography, a mystical journey of discovery of her blessed life, which has been filled with good fortune. Good for her. Maybe her lucky streak will continue and she'll find a publisher.

A few of the proposals were memoirs of persons not so spiritually blessed, and these sounded intriguing. "The Act" is about a child of a mixed race couple (one a Swede, the other, African) growing up in northern Sweden, then moving to the U.S. where he ended up a male prostitute. He says it's a true story, and it was quite unusual and unexpected to hear a black man speaking with a Swedish accent. "Correspondence Unauthorized" is about an African-American woman convicted of a white collar crime, sent to prison, then later going homeless.

The idea which "won" the event was Verne Hoyt's "Parties Unknown", the fruit of 20 years research into his grandparents' involvement in a lynching in southern Georgia in 1930, which culminates with him visiting the victim's widow, and later serving as a pall-bearer in her funeral.

Novel ideas: 1) Voodoo Town a slipstream novel about a detective who must consult the seven African Voodoo Deities to solve a mystery. He described it as Elmore Leonard meets Anne Rice. He should add Neil Gaiman's American Gods to his "similar" list.
2) A novel about a new astrologer who solves problems. Her speech is very polished and perhaps her writing is, as well. Although the concept of pseudo-science in novels causes a knee-jerk revulsion in me, I've seen two writers use Tarot well in their stories--Jeanette Winterson in Gut Symmetries and my colleague Michelle Byington in her novel-in-progress. Michelle's character Tina uses tarot to force/reinforce her interpretation of the world both to herself and to her girlfriend, to tragi-comic effect.
3) 13 Minutes. A novel about a hedonist artist who achieves limited success and ends up on reality television.
4) A Doll House. About a late life marriage to a husband with Alzheimer's, using the construction of doll houses to keep him focused.
5) Kwame Nkrumah (not the former President of Ghana) has an African folk story about a wily hyena.
I think all of these are fine ideas if the writers have the talent to make them shine.

There was one poetry book proposal "For the Godesses", poems about women who have nurtured and inspired him. The author has never had a poem published before. And his recited sample contained nothing novel or gripping in it.

One of the best proposals, and I really hope this gets published is "A Girl's Guide to College Sports Scholarships" by one of ESPN's editors. The panel suggested that she draft a famous female athlete to write an introduction. If my spouse and I are blessed with a daughter, I hope this book is updated and reprinted frequently.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day Post

About 15 years ago, my friend Big Jerry and I decided to go hang out in Fredericksburg Texas for a day, only about an hour and a half drive out of Austin. After a nice lunch at one of the town's notable German restaurants and beer gardens (Auslander), we made our way to the Nimitz Museum, named after the famed World War II admiral who grew up in there. Its collection of photographs and artifacts is limited to the Pacific Theater of the war, often overlooked, as people and Hollywood tend to pay more attention to the war in Europe.

Outside the museum we noticed two tour buses.

We walked through the exhibit among groups of elderly veterans, many wearing hats and vests for their unit reunions, learning what a wretched and wrenching experience the Pacific War had been for our soldiers, who often battled malaria, dysentery, incessant drenching rains and undernourishment in addition to the Japanese. In one room we encountered an oversize photograph, maybe four feet by six, of a group of soldiers wading ashore on Tarawa. One of the older vets pointed to a man in the picture and said "That's me." And looking at him and the photo we could see that he was telling the truth. I wonder how it felt seeing his younger self in a museum, in a snapshot of the most horrible day of his life.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Bubble/Ha-buah

Last night I went to a showing of an Eytan Fox's "The Bubble" (ha-buah in Hebrew). I wanted to like the movie but found it too heavy-handed. Some things were depicted very well--the humiliation of Palestinians forced to pass through Israeli checkpoints was spot-on. Also well shone is Tel Aviv's gay culture. The characters seemed real and believable, except, perhaps Ashraf's brother, named, unsubtly, Jihad. As a writer of stories, though, I dislike clumsiness in the plot as well as distortion of circumstantial nuances.

The first problem: as the young hedonistic peaceniks prepared their "Rave Against the Occupation" they didn't invite Palestinians, citing the problems with checkpoints etc. This would be credible, except that there are over a million Arabs living inside Israel's borders. Why didn't they think to advertise in Arab townships inside Israel? I could see that Fox wanted to show their "Bubble", their complete lack of connection to other communities, but somebody on the rave planning committee should have proposed the idea before it was dismissed.

The second problem: hiring Ashraf at the cafe as "Shimi" and hiding his Palestinian identity, as if Arabs were not allowed employment in restaurants in Tel Aviv--as if the patrons would assume that because he's an Arab, he's a terrorist. I don't buy it.

The third problem: the scene in which a Palestinian woman is killed in Nablus by IDF soldiers. Utterly absurd that a pair of Israeli soldiers (just a pair, not even a squad) pursuing "unseen terrorists" drive up into Nablus and shoot her by accident, when nobody else is even visible... I'm not saying the IDF hasn't killed civilians. Unfortunately, quite the contrary. But in terms of the movie, this could have happened in a more believable and even more powerful way--say, for example, as she's passing through a checkpoint, an Israeli soldier has an accident with his rifle. Then the IDF would have to contain an angry crowd, confronted with witnesses. But unfortunately, the way in which the sister is martyred is cheap and implausible.

The fourth problem: the narrative of Noam's deceased mother, a veritable martyr for coexistence. Too brazenly heroic and sentimental.

Unlike some of the other audience members, I didn't have a problem with the ending, which I'll not give away. But I hope to see future treatments of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a queer lens which are not so ham-fisted and unsubtle.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another Acceptance Notification

I am excited to report that my poem "Physics" was picked up by the online journal Clean Sheets . The journal is for grown ups. Don't look at it on your work computer. Read it with somebody you lust for.

The note said late September/Early October.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bad Jew, Bad Jew!

Yet another year. I bought Rosh Hashanah cards, but haven't filled them out and sent them. If I owe you one, maybe you'll get it by Yom Kippur.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Few Good Reads

Lately, among the things I've read, I've encountered a few short stories worth noting and recommending for others:

Pinckney Benedict's "Zog-19: A Scientific Romance" in Zoetrope All Story 2. This story is phenomenal, combining tragedy with the humorously absurd. Although sci-fi is not my usual genre of reading, this short story ranks among the best I've encountered--up there with Douglas Adams and Jeanette Winterson's "Stone Gods."

Paul Auster's "Travels in the Scriptorium". The narrative voice shifts early in the story between one which doesn't know what's in the protagonist's head and one that does. The reason becomes clear later on. Like Calvino's "If On a Winter's Night a Traveler," this story contains stories within a frame story. Beautifully written and very engaging.

Gail Hareven "Man in a Hat" in 50 Stories from Israel. The daughter of the late Shulamit Hareven, also an author and member of the Hebrew Language Academy. The author used the same nightmarish mimesis that her mom used so well in "Twilight" and "The Emissary." I now want to read the story in the Hebrew original.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Things I've Seen Lately

A man pulling boogers from his nose, then wiping them on the train seat.

A young man pouring the remains of his drink into a mailbox.

More litterers than I can count.

And last and most gross, when I went into a bathroom stall today, the man in the next stall was pooping and eating a bag of chips simultaneously.

I would love to see robots or aliens conquer our species and force the survivors to behave.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Yet Another Author I Recommend

While reading an anthology of female Israeli authors, I chanced upon a marvelous story by Shulamit Hareven, titled "Twilight" in its English translation. The story was bleak but beautifully written, calling to mind the magical and fantastical bent of 1000 Nights and the nightmarish surrealism of Agnon and Borges. No there weren't any vampires.

So I checked out a collection of her short stories, and really enjoyed the story "Emissary" as well, her writing very much in the shadow of Agnon, but with female protagonists.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

words I love

Check out the Word of the Day index on the blog Yesterday's Salad for a list of cool words:

My favorites: virtuating, obambulate, gustatory, seraglio and veridical.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Words I hate part 1

I find it annoying when reading a short story and the author uses the word "akimbo." Why does it bother me? That the word isn't used in everyday speech? Why should literature follow the register of common speech? But that's just it--the narrative is usually written in an everyday educated register, the narrative presents itself as natural speech, so that "akimbo" becomes as jarring as if they had revivified a word of forgotten Chaucerian. It creates a Brechtian alienation effect--one is absorbed in the mimesis then this word reminds us we are reading a constructed text of an author, who probably learned to use this word in a creative writing class.

Another word I hate to see in fiction. "Situation." Too overused on television and movies.

"Energy." Unless reading a physics text.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gus Ginsburg vs. Modern Poetry

Jacob Appel gave me several literary journals. Many of them contain poetry. And I swear 90% of it is dreadful. Worse than the Vogon poetry of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's least the Vogon poetry featured new words and imagery...

With the expulsion of rhyme and meter, what makes a poem a poem? The mere fact that we chop up the lines? Most of the "poems" I've read of late would easily pass for crappy flash fiction if you integrated the lines into paragraphs. Clever wordplay seems passe these days as well. Ah for medieval times, when poetry was poetic...yes, some of it was dreck--for instance, Gersonides' poems about his new astronomical invention The Revealer of Secrets (Jacob's Staff). It was a fantastic invention, used by astronomers, navigators and surveyors until displaced by the sextant. But his poems about it were little better than our modern flash fiction poems. Yet some of the works of other medieval poets exude beauty, depth and cleverness. Samuel Ibn Naghrela ha-Nagid's poems about his dead brother moved me to tears...Judah Halevi penned a very nice piece in which he describes a woman's chest, using a variety of Biblical allusions and metaphors...

If modern poets have done away with rhyme, at least give the piece a good rhythm. And pay attention to beauty. Don't end lines with the word "that." It's ugly and dadaist.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fictitious Book Blurb 4

Through a Reflective Speculum: The Gynecological Kabbalah of R. Isaac b. Shimon of Gerona
Elliot Wolfbane
SUNY Press

R. Isaac b. Shimon of Gerona (fl. late 13th century) was a polymath. One of the translators in the court of King Alfonso X “el Sabio” of Castile, he was part of the team who rendered Ibn Sina’s voluminous medical classic Qanun fi’l-Tibb into Latin, as well as the lesser known and lost treatise by Isaac Israeli (9th Century physician of Qayrowan) On the Loathsome Parts of Women. Specializing in feminine ailments, R. Isaac served as the physician to the ladies of the royal family both under Alfonso X and his successor Sancho IV (r.1284-1295).

Yet, Rabbi Isaac had grown up among the mystics of Gerona prior to his departure for a medical career, and remained in contact with them throughout his life. Deeply influenced by the kabbalistic idea of matrimonial conjugality theurgically inducing sexual congress between the female and male parts of the Divine, Isaac discovered what he thought to be the reason for Israel’s downfallen state, its Diaspora and servitude among the heathen nations: the Shekhina, or feminine part of God, was on Her period. Contra the other Gerona kabbalists, who in the their work The Zohar advocated frequent marital relations to stimulate Divine Happiness, R. Isaac advocated abstention, as one does not approach one’s wife for pleasure when she is menstruating. His prescription instead is for kind words, sympathy and songs of praise for the Deity and for the readers’ wives, and to look forward in joy to the day the Shekhina goes to the ritual bathhouse to wash Herself clean and restore relations with Her beloved Israel.

Wolfbane’s study illuminates the thought of this long forgotten kabbalist with a close phenomenological and eroticized reading of R. Isaac’s epistles. He concludes with a poignant analysis of the failure of movements of sexual asceticism among Jewish mystics.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fictitious Book Blurb 3

The Complete Jewish Literature
Jacob Neusner
Ktav Publishing

Noted for his rapid translation of voluminous classical Rabbinic works into English, Neusner has turned his attention to the entirety of Jewish literature, publishing the whole multi-millennial literary corpus of the entire Jewish people. Eschewing the more labor-intensive translation styles of both Adin Steinsaltz and Artscroll publishing which render the texts into comprehensible English with ample contextual information, Neusner’s translations of all these millions of works are rendered in the same terse word-for-word style as his previous translations of the Mishnah, Midrash and Talmud.
In the last century and a half, a substantial portion of the Jewish literary corpus was composed in English. With these English works, Neusner re-renders them, employing a draconian economy even stricter than his word-for-word translations from Hebrew and Aramaic. Neusner eliminates adjectives, adverbs, unnecessary clauses and speculative or conditional sentences. Observe the efficiency of his version of the first page of Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint:

“I thought of her. All teachers are mother. I ran home. She was in the kitchen. She served milk and cookies. I feared her.”

This economy enabled Neusner to present all of Philip Roth’s works in a single book in his 175,000 volume set. Economically bound in standard academic lavender hardback, The Complete Jewish Literature, with a value far beyond rubies is a bargain at $1.75 million for the entire set, or even at the $20 per volume rate, for to purchase all the books in their other editions would cost well over $50 million.
Neusner exhibits no false modesty for his unparalleled prowess as a translator. He says “I have achieved more in one year than Steinsaltz could do in twenty million years.” Lucky for us.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fictitious Book Blurb 2

Biblical Redaction from the Book of Ibid.: The Evidences
The Reverend Dr. Jebediah McDowell

Reverend McDowell, when examining a volume of the Soncino Babylonian Talmud in English, noticed a large number of references to a book of Ibid. in the footnotes. Knowing a thing or two about Semitic linguistics, he realized that the title of this work derives from the Semitic root ayin-bet-dalet, a morpheme which means to worship or serve, hence the Book of Ibid. should be translated as the Book of Worship. His search for the book Ibid. yielded nothing, so, convinced he had seen references to a lost work, he proceeded to reconstruct the text as much as possible from the citations and references. From his painstaking reconstruction of fragments, he noticed a startling similarity of the fragments to the text of the Bible. Familiar with the Wellhausen hypothesis of Biblical redaction from plural sources, as well as the Bible’s own references to the lost books The Wars of the Lord (mentioned in Numbers 21:14-15) and Sefer Ha-Yashar (mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18), Reverend McDowell conjectured that the Bible is likely a redaction of the book Ibid. and a few other lost sources.
Reverend McDowell attempted to present his hypothesis to the academic community but was met with contemptuous ridicule, as no journal would publish his article. His query letters to various Biblical scholars went unanswered. He deduced a vast and secret conspiracy to cover up the true origins of the Bible, and expanded his article into a monograph. Yet neither agents nor publishers would give it due consideration. As self-publishing has become easier with the advent of e-books and marketing outlets for e-books, the Reverend Jebediah McDowell is finally able to share with the world the truth, unhindered by sneering academics and censorial publishers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fictitious Book Blurbs

On Duotropes, a website which lists thousands of publishing opportunities, I saw a listing for a Potential Books Book, a book of abstracts for fictitious books. As I love parody and satire, I saw this as a wonderful opportunity. I wrote four of them. Here's one of them:

The Silence of the Trucks: Instrumentality and the Discourse of Hegemony in Israeli Cinema
Ella Shemer-Kronish

Having written about the representation of nearly every category of Other in Israeli cinema (Arabs, Ethiopians, Circassians, Armenians, Druze, gays, lesbians, occasional bisexuals, and transgendered Hassids), Shemer-Kronish here employs the same conceptual methodologies from critical theory and cultural studies to examine the shameful degradation of trucks. Pure vehicles for human pleasure and utility, trucks are denied their own voices and sympathy-inducing close-ups. Trucks, like the other Others are kept in the background while the filmic narrative foregrounds the colonizers, even ignoring their dialectical relations to their trucks which, as post-colonial theorist Homi Bhabha postulates, hybridize their thought and speech. A must-read for scholars of cinema, this book will also become part of the cultural studies anti-canon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fiction Review "Brooklyn Noir" part 1

All told a worthwhile collection of stories. Here are my two cents on the stories I've read so far:

Pete Hamill "The Book Signing." What I like about the story: the narrator's observation of the changes in Park Slope after an extended absence. The description of aspiring authors at the book signing and their standard questions. What I don't like: the main story itself is a little unsatisfying, though the narrative voice itself is excellent.

Pearl Abraham "Hasidic Noir". Like many Jewish authors writing for a larger and mostly non-Jewish audience, the narrator's voice is inauthentic as the Yiddishisms and Hebraisms which would color his speech are minimized, and the Hasidic syntactical patterns are abandoned for more standardized English sentence structures. It is a common characteristic of literature for a non-Jewish audience. Nathan Englander and Shalom Auslander also do this. I have done this myself in my story of a Hasidic Vampire. This is really not so much a criticism as a fact: if we were to write a story the way that many Hasids speak, a non-Jewish audience would not find it very readable--the work would need copious footnotes to explain the terminology. I found two things dissatisfying with the story: 1)the surprise ending (which I will not ruin for you) 2) the idea that the villain character could manipulate everyone so easily against the good Rabbi, even his family. It makes the community look like a group of mindless fools.

Sidney Offit's "No Time for Senior's". Great narrative voice. Great humor. A disappointing and unlikely groaner of a twist.

Tim McLoughlin "When all this was Bay Ridge." Great story. Poignant ending.

Adam Mansbach's "Crown Heist." Brilliant and wicked.

Arthur Nersesian's "Hunter/Trapper." Also excellent.

Neal Pollack's "Scavenger Hunt." Very nice. Great narrative voice. Interesting plot.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I've hit the small time!

My short story "Declination" was accepted for publication in a forthcoming anthology of humorous sci-fi, to be titled Probing Uranus. Small press. But sells on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so it should get some circulation.

Since my first venue was The Moose & Pussy, and my second published work appears in Probing Uranus--what outrageously titled publication will print my third story?

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Welcome to Mimetic Declination, the blog of Gus Ginsburg.

About me. "Gus Ginsburg" is a pen name. I find it expedient to keep my fiction separate from my private life. Also, my real name is extraordinarily generic, there are dozens in the phone book with my same name.