Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge

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Funny, raw, dark, sometimes outrageous, the twenty-five contributors to Lost Tribe explore themes such as conflicted identities, ...

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Overview

Funny, raw, dark, sometimes outrageous, the twenty-five contributors to Lost Tribe explore themes such as conflicted identities, sexual fetishes, religious intolerance, and even the troubled legacy of the Holocaust to create a stirring picture of contemporary Jewish life. Lost Tribe features stories and commentary from a brilliant mixture of critically acclaimed and emerging writers.

Steve Almond
Aimee Bender
Gabriel Brownstein
Judy Budnitz
Nathan Englander
Jonathan Safran Foer
Myla Goldberg
Ehud Havazelet
Dara Horn
Rachel Kadish
Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer
Binnie Kirshenbaum
Joan Leegant
Michael Lowenthal
Ellen Miller
Tova Mirvis
Peter Orner
Jon Papernick
Nelly Reifler
Ben Schrank
Suzan Sherman
Gary Shteyngart
Aryeh Lev Stollman
Ellen Umansky
Simone Zelitch

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Editorial Reviews

Stephen J. Dubner
"Read at your own risk—and great reward."
New York Magazine
"Where Jewish literature and its youngest brightest practitioners are heading—and to capture them between covers."
—Aufbau
“An anthology as ambitious as it is important...offers a glimpse of the new generation of American Jewish writers. ”
—Stephen J. Dubner
“Read at your own risk—and great reward.”
—New York magazine
“Where Jewish literature and its youngest brightest practitioners are heading—and to capture them between covers.”
--Stephen J. Dubner
“Read at your own risk--and great reward.”
Aufbau
"An anthology as ambitious as it is important...offers a glimpse of the new generation of American Jewish writers. "
New York magazine
“Where Jewish literature and its youngest brightest practitioners are heading—and to capture them between covers.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
I highly recommend this collection of fiction...(Lost Tribe) reflects the lives and struggles of all Americans today.
New York magazine
“Where Jewish literature and its youngest brightest practitioners are heading--and to capture them between covers.”
Aufbau
“An anthology as ambitious as it is important...offers a glimpse of the new generation of American Jewish writers. ”
Library Journal
Zakrzewski (director, literary programs, Jewish Community Ctr., New York City) presents a selection of stories and novel excerpts by 25 writers of the "post-Philip Roth generation." Divided into three sections-"Love and Sex After Portnoy," "Dreams, Prayers, and Nightmares," and "Mystics, Seekers, and Fanatics"-the book features tales of sexuality, remembrance, and mysticism, followed by paragraph-length afterwords from the writers. Many stories have adolescents as protagonists, and sexual desire and the destruction of European Jewry are common obsessions. In a roster that includes such well-known writers as Nathan Englander, Myla Goldberg, and Jonathan Safran Foer, Gary Shteyngart ("Several Anecdotes About My Wife"), Judy Budnitz ("Hershel," about a baby maker), and Steve Almond ("A Dream of Sleep," a description of an aged caretaker) distinguish themselves. Also exciting are Ellen Miller's "In Memory of Chanveasna Chan, Who Is Still Alive" and Rachel Kadish's view of two old men in "The Argument." The joining of the mundane and the spiritual, modern American Jewish life, and historic Jewish ideals makes this anthology a valuable addition to understanding contemporary Jewish thinking. Recommended for Jewish studies and literature collections.-Gene Shaw, NYPL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060533465
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/5/2003
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Zakrzewski (pronounced Zak-shef-ski) is awriter, editor, and literary event curator. As director of literary programs for the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, he runs a popular reading series featuring new and provocative Jewish writers at the KGB Bar in the East Village. He is also an editor at Heeb magazine, a Jewish pop culture collective, which was nominated for BestNew Title in the 2002 Utne Reader Alternative Press Awards. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and can be reached at www.lost-tribe-fiction.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Lost Tribe

Jewish Fiction from the Edge
By Paul Zakrzewski

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Paul Zakrzewski All right reserved. ISBN: 0060533463

Chapter One

The Last One Way

Nathan Englander

Electrolysis promises permanence, hair killed at the roots. As far as Gitta could tell, in eighteen years of weekly visits not a single hair had been dissuaded from growing. Still she crossed to the Italian edge of Royal Hills each week and lay back on the cracked Naugahyde table in Lili's makeshift salon. They talked. Lili shocked and plucked. Then Gitta made her way home red faced and tender, the crisp sting of witch hazel humming in electrified pores.

Gitta never blamed Lili, not her stiffening fingers or boxy outdated machine. She never expected results. Her life was one of infinite patience and unfinished business, an existence of relations drawn out.

Quick she didn't look for either. The only quick she had known was her shiddach. One flit of a date in the lobby of a Manhattan hotel and the next month married. For that bit of economy she had paid with eighteen years of miserable marriage and eighteen years separated, waiting for Berel to give her a divorce. She was Royal Hills's agunah, their woman in waiting - trapped in Jewish marriage by loopholeless laws. Not to think that New York State did for her better. A state with no no-fault divorce.Even the blessing of the gentile court she couldn't get. Her reasons weren't prima facie. The judge was not impressed. What more should she have to say than she didn't want to be married? Idiot rules. No-fault in itself an idiot concept. Anyone who's experienced will tell you the same: when a marriage fails, always, always there is fault.

Up on the stool, switches flicked, the circular bulb of the magnifying light crackled while the gases fired up and raced round the tube. Lili pushed the light into place - Gitta's halo. She then witch-hazeled the glass center, witch-hazeled the needle, witch-hazeled Gitta, and leaned in.

"I went to the kabbalist," Gitta said, "went to the rabbi. Useless both."

"And who said useless from the start?"

"Still, I thought," Gitta said. "Better to try the others one more time. Mystical numbers, I brought. A kabbalist's feast. Married at eighteen for eighteen years. And now eighteen years waiting for a divorce. One second it took to explain. Clear as I'm telling you."

"Easy numbers," Lili agreed.

"I got the same as they've been giving all along," Gitta said. "The rabbi wanting to know if there was someone else, if I'd fallen in love, if, God forbid, I was pregnant. The kabbalist, no better. A blessing at the end, much mazal and a healed marriage and a house full of children. Fifty-four years old and wishing me children. And me with a hot flash in the middle."

"They're waiting for Berel to die of old age. They'll bring you a divorce when they can trail in the mud off his grave along with it. Enough is enough. If he needs to die for you to live, then see to it yourself." For emphasis, Lili sank in the needle and hit the pedal twice, shock-shocking Gitta and tweezing out the freed hair.

"I picture it done, sometimes. Berel face-down behind the supermarket drowned in a puddle, or in his apartment with a broken neck, by a broken ladder, an empty fixture hanging from the ceiling, and a lightbulb broken in his hand. Accidents. Who would guess? No trail from him to me, from me to you, from you to a husband with a cousin who knows people who do such things."

"It's a simple transaction, Gitta. Berel's life spent to buy back yours. At this point, a fair price to pay."

"Terrible. Terrible talk. There is still the matchmaker. A saner idea."

"Who's been saying matchmaker from the start? You want business done, do it in a business way. You don't go looking for some rabbi's sympathy, you go to the source. If this guy made the match, let him undo it, and let him know there are more permanent solutions. Trust me, it's not killing but the prospect of killing that gets things done."

"And if it doesn't?"

"Then there is killing. Win-win situation. For once. For Gitta. Win-win."

Looking at her now, Liebman remembered her then. He was a pious man and not one for staring. But the matchmaker, well, he is part of a highly specialized field, like the doctor. He is forced to look, to see, with honest eyes.

His memory confirmed what he saw before him: a woman not easy to match.

This was not just a cruel judgment, not because so maybe one of her eyes was a little higher than the other, and one of her breasts a whole lot lower so that it pointed out and down and looked like it was embarrassed on its own about the condition and trying to sneak behind Gitta's back to hide. It had nothing even to do with her trademark hirsuteness.

What Little Liebman could not afford to ignore was her nature. A generous person might pretend not to notice. But it's the matchmaker's job to know. Gitta Floog had always been different, and it threatened everyone. And for all the unfairness she'd seen in her life, Royal Hills somehow looked upon her thankfully. A sad case, but always someone has to suffer. Better it was Gitta. Somehow, underneath, they thought it. Gitta got what she deserved.

For this prevailing, unspoken feeling, Liebman felt worst of all. In thirty-six years of successful matchmaking she was his only agunah. And to his only agunah he owed his success.

Little Liebman had long trailed Heshel the Matchmaker begging a chance to make a match on his own ...

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Lost Tribe by Paul Zakrzewski
Copyright © 2003 by Paul Zakrzewski
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Pt. 1 Love and Sex After Portnoy
The Last One Way 3
Several Anecdotes About My Wife 22
Julian 56
Knitting One 66
Leah 96
Bachelor Party 146
Pt. 2 Dreams, Prayers, and Nightmares
Who Knows Kaddish 171
Hershel 183
A Dream of Sleep 192
Barbarians at the Gates 213
Ordinary Pain 248
Die Grosse Liebe 265
Dreaming in Polish 281
Walt Kaplan Reads Hiroshima, March 1947 293
In Memory of Chanveasna Chan, Who Is Still Alive 300
How to Make It to the Promised Land 325
The Argument 345
Pt. 3 Mystics, Seekers, and Fanatics
Bee Season 375
A Poland, a Lithuania, a Galicia 400
Consent 422
Ten Plagues 438
Seekers in the Holy Land 456
The Very Rigid Search 476
Goodbye, Evil Eye 505
The King of the King of Falafel 527
The Contributors 537
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First Chapter

Chapter One

The Last One Way

Nathan Englander

Electrolysis promises permanence, hair killed at the roots. As far as Gitta could tell, in eighteen years of weekly visits not a single hair had been dissuaded from growing. Still she crossed to the Italian edge of Royal Hills each week and lay back on the cracked Naugahyde table in Lili's makeshift salon. They talked. Lili shocked and plucked. Then Gitta made her way home red faced and tender, the crisp sting of witch hazel humming in electrified pores.

Gitta never blamed Lili, not her stiffening fingers or boxy outdated machine. She never expected results. Her life was one of infinite patience and unfinished business, an existence of relations drawn out.

Quick she didn't look for either. The only quick she had known was her shiddach. One flit of a date in the lobby of a Manhattan hotel and the next month married. For that bit of economy she had paid with eighteen years of miserable marriage and eighteen years separated, waiting for Berel to give her a divorce. She was Royal Hills's agunah, their woman in waiting -- trapped in Jewish marriage by loopholeless laws. Not to think that New York State did for her better. A state with no no-fault divorce. Even the blessing of the gentile court she couldn't get. Her reasons weren't prima facie. The judge was not impressed. What more should she have to say than she didn't want to be married? Idiot rules. No-fault in itself an idiot concept. Anyone who's experienced will tell you the same: when a marriage fails, always, always there is fault.

Up on the stool, switches flicked, the circular bulb of the magnifying light crackled while the gases fired up and raced round the tube. Lili pushed the light into place -- Gitta's halo. She then witch-hazeled the glass center, witch-hazeled the needle, witch-hazeled Gitta, and leaned in.

"I went to the kabbalist," Gitta said, "went to the rabbi. Useless both."

"And who said useless from the start?"

"Still, I thought," Gitta said. "Better to try the others one more time. Mystical numbers, I brought. A kabbalist's feast. Married at eighteen for eighteen years. And now eighteen years waiting for a divorce. One second it took to explain. Clear as I'm telling you."

"Easy numbers," Lili agreed.

"I got the same as they've been giving all along," Gitta said. "The rabbi wanting to know if there was someone else, if I'd fallen in love, if, God forbid, I was pregnant. The kabbalist, no better. A blessing at the end, much mazal and a healed marriage and a house full of children. Fifty-four years old and wishing me children. And me with a hot flash in the middle."

"They're waiting for Berel to die of old age. They'll bring you a divorce when they can trail in the mud off his grave along with it. Enough is enough. If he needs to die for you to live, then see to it yourself." For emphasis, Lili sank in the needle and hit the pedal twice, shock-shocking Gitta and tweezing out the freed hair.

"I picture it done, sometimes. Berel face-down behind the supermarket drowned in a puddle, or in his apartment with a broken neck, by a broken ladder, an empty fixture hanging from the ceiling, and a lightbulb broken in his hand. Accidents. Who would guess? No trail from him to me, from me to you, from you to a husband with a cousin who knows people who do such things."

"It's a simple transaction, Gitta. Berel's life spent to buy back yours. At this point, a fair price to pay."

"Terrible. Terrible talk. There is still the matchmaker. A saner idea."

"Who's been saying matchmaker from the start? You want business done, do it in a business way. You don't go looking for some rabbi's sympathy, you go to the source. If this guy made the match, let him undo it, and let him know there are more permanent solutions. Trust me, it's not killing but the prospect of killing that gets things done."

"And if it doesn't?"

"Then there is killing. Win-win situation. For once. For Gitta. Win-win."

Looking at her now, Liebman remembered her then. He was a pious man and not one for staring. But the matchmaker, well, he is part of a highly specialized field, like the doctor. He is forced to look, to see, with honest eyes.

His memory confirmed what he saw before him: a woman not easy to match.

This was not just a cruel judgment, not because so maybe one of her eyes was a little higher than the other, and one of her breasts a whole lot lower so that it pointed out and down and looked like it was embarrassed on its own about the condition and trying to sneak behind Gitta's back to hide. It had nothing even to do with her trademark hirsuteness.

What Little Liebman could not afford to ignore was her nature. A generous person might pretend not to notice. But it's the matchmaker's job to know. Gitta Floog had always been different, and it threatened everyone. And for all the unfairness she'd seen in her life, Royal Hills somehow looked upon her thankfully. A sad case, but always someone has to suffer. Better it was Gitta. Somehow, underneath, they thought it. Gitta got what she deserved.

For this prevailing, unspoken feeling, Liebman felt worst of all. In thirty-six years of successful matchmaking she was his only agunah. And to his only agunah he owed his success.

Little Liebman had long trailed Heshel the Matchmaker begging a chance to make a match on his own ...

Lost Tribe. Copyright © by Paul Zakrzewski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2004

    Never to be Lost In Their Minds

    Lost Tribe is one of those rare reads that will stay with the reader, never to be lost in their minds. The blend of stories and emotions hits every chord of our being, from mysticism/Kabbalah, to sex, gender and Holocaust, each author has brought their uniqueness to the story they have contributed, and at times the rawness is almost unbearable, the focus can be maddening, and the insight filled with spirituality and calm. I liked the fact that the author of each story explained why they wrote what they did, how it was relevant to their own life, or not relevant at all. The characters jump to life within the lines and pages, and long after the reader has finished the book. You will not be disappointed, for this book offers a story for everyone, a story all of us can identify with.

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