This week’s other featured books, “Francesca,” by Don Tassone and “Orion,” by L.K. Hingey, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.
THE BOOK: The Man Who Loved His Wife
PUBLISHED IN: 2021
THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Anne Moses
THE PUBLISHER: Mayapple Press, an Indie located in Woodstock NY, run on sweat and devotion.
SUMMARY: The Man Who Loved His Wife is a collection of 13 Yiddish-accented short stories about Jews being Jewish, meaning that the book is informed, soaked in, and shot through with Yiddish and Yiddishkeit. A mashup of Hebrew and German, with trace elements of French and the Slavic languages, Yiddish became the everyday vernacular of European Jews living across both linguistic and political borders. Yiddishkeit–or “Yiddish culture”—is the wonderful messy and eclectic culture that the Yiddish language expressed. My stories–about an elderly European refugee living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who comes to believe that his dog is the reincarnation of the sister who died in the death camps, another about a group of middle-aged children mourning the death of their beloved mother among non-Jews—are all, primarily (and of necessity) about the human heart.
The settings of the stories vary– Tel Aviv, suburban New Jersey, the Deep South, London—but characters’ challenges– with God, their loved ones, fate, death, hope, Hitler, transcendence, and the 4000 year old history of Judaism—transcend borders.
THE BACK STORY: I wrote the stories over many years, and as they were published in literary and small magazines, it occurred to me that I had a collection. That said, the real back story is my childhood: I was raised in Virginia among ur-wasps who rode horses and had summer cottages in Maine. Then I went to college, where not only were there other Jews, but where I stumbled on a class called “Yid Lit.” From there I was off to the races, reading all the works of Yiddish and modern Hebrew literature I could get my hands on, from Sholom Aleichem all the way up through I.B. and I.J. Singer and eventually to the Dir Nister and Babel.
I think at a certain point most writers of fiction would agree that you write what you have to write, because why bother doing it if it isn’t pressing so persistently against your soul that you have to give voice to it? My own soul, it appears, is indeed Jewish, which is perhaps why I love Yiddish literature more than any other world literature: because it speaks to me, way down in my kishkes.
WHY THIS TITLE?: I originally titled the collection “The Uncircumcised,” which is the title of the first story. But my publisher pointed out that such a title would invite pornographic mis-readings and perhaps worse. Then I thought “The Holy Messiah”—the title of another story in the collection—would be dandy, but again my publisher had reservations, this time because she thought that such a title would be understood as distinctly Christian (and Jesus-centered) literature. Finally I chose “The Man Who Loved His Wife” (the title of the seventh story in the collection) because I liked it.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Anyone who has a drop of Jewish in their soul would find the collection an immense pleasure to read. I’ve gotten comments from readers across the spectrum—from religious Jews to atheists to Episcopalians to Southern Baptists—who get it, who feel the human plight of the mainly Jewish characters who populate the stories. That said, readers whose hearts and souls—and histories—sing to distinctly Jewish melodies will recognize themselves, their families, their anxieties, their histories, and their fellow Jews in the stories. Plus many of the stories are funny.
“Jennifer Anne Moses has mastered the art of character voice. Everyone in her anthology The Man Who Loved His Wife is distinctly his or her own person. And the characters speak to you as you read, as if you’re in the middle of this interesting conversation about careers or food or relationships, and you can hear them. You can hear their nasally voices, their hiccuping cries, their disdainful mutters.
“Trust me when I say you’ll love Esther. You will.
“As I read this collection, I looked for the themes and the golden thread throughout. There is a strong sense of Jewish family culture and forgiveness. Some of the families have secrets and the author immerses readers in them until you feel like you’re on stage with them. You’re there in the building in the city wondering who else knows your business. You’re one of the students hearing rumors about the teacher. You’re consoling your mother who just wants you to be happy and find love.
“Moses is a storyteller and conversationalist combined. Her collection is theatrical and bold. She has a way of taking ordinary life events and transforming them into these peculiar moments that readers will remember long after they’ve closed the book.— Shelf Media Indie Review
“Jennifer Anne Moses has the Malamudian touch, and an uncanny gift for transposing the Yiddish mixture of mordancy and compassion into lively English stories” – Leon Weiseltier – Editor, Liberties
“In The Man Who Loved His Wife (Mayapple Press, 2021), Jennifer Anne Moses creates characters who grapple with the minutiae of their lives while considering family, fate, love, death, the afterlife, the divine presence, and spirituality. Peppered with Yiddishisms and salted with sisters, brothers, parents, children, grandparents, neighbors, and friends, Moses tells the stories of regular people faced with the problems of daily life but weighted with the 4000-year-old history of Judaism. She is reminiscent of writers like Isaac Bashevis Singer, Cynthia Ozick, Chaim Grade, and Philip Roth (to name a few) who captured the spirit of humanity in a specific time and place.” — JP Gottlieb, New Books Network
AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m the author of seven books of fiction and non-fiction: The Man Who Loved His Wife is number seven. My journalistic and opinion pieces have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Newark Star Ledger, USA Today, Salon, The Jerusalem Report, Commentary, Moment, and many other publications. I’m also a painter in the Outsider tradition, where I fuse Hebrew prayer with a distinctly Southern sensibility, born from the many years I lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with my husband and three children.
According to Google I am a “multi genre” writer–but it’s more than a matter of genre. I’ve internalized different worlds and voices, and eventually it all bubbles up into my work.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: Before the Holocaust, Europe was some to 11-to-13 million Yiddish speakers. Hitler murdered most of them, and assimilation, both in Israel and North America, all but wiped out what was left of Yiddish itself. I myself knew Jews of my parents’ generation who, ashamed of the old language and its associations of being “jargon,” and uncouth, forbade the use of Yiddish expressions in their homes. Meantime, in Israel, Hebrew waging an all-out battle with Yiddish, not just as a matter of linguistics, but as a matter of identity, Zionism, philosophy, religion, and literature. Thus the loss of one of the world’s most vibrant, poetic, pugnacious, and soulful languages.
These days, somewhere in the neighborhood of between half a million and one million people speak and use Yiddish as their everyday language. Of these, most are Haredim—extremely religious Jews of various sects, easily identified by their old-timey garb—men are bearded, women cover their hair. (Versus nine million Hebrew speakers. And 360 million English speakers, one reason why for most of my life I was strictly monolingual.)
How do Jews express their Judaism? Why do we bother? What is our heritage? What is our connection to the divine? These questions permeate my work and dwell inside me.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: http://mayapplepress.com/the-man-who-loved-his-wife-jennifer-anne-moses/
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