Sunday, January 3, 2010

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

I don't usually post anything new on Sundays, but something exciting has happened and I don't want to wait.

On Friday's edition of WKAR's "Under the Radar" segment writer Lev Raphael talked about Jane Bites Back. You can listen to it here.

This is a real thrill for me. Raphael is a wonderful writer. When I graduated from college and moved to New York in 1989 one of the first places I went was the now-closed A Different Light bookstore on Hudson Street. For a 20-year-old gay man who had just escaped from a conservative religious school this was a big deal. I had never seen a store filled with books by and about gay people. I returned again and again, trying to make up for what I saw as lost time by reading everything I could.

One of the books I bought at A Different Light was Lev Raphael's short story collection Dancing on Tisha B'Av. It contained some of the most beautiful writing I'd ever encountered. For a young man who had yet to know any Jewish people well (the small country town I grew up in wasn't exactly culturally diverse, and the college I attended was evangelical Christian) a lot of what Raphael wrote about was foreign to me. Yet the feelings of isolation and loss, joy and self-acceptance he wrote about were very familiar.

Although we have written about similar themes, published with some of the same people, and generally moved in the same circles over the years, I have never met Lev Raphael. When my agent e-mailed me this morning to say that he had featured JBB on his show I was surprised and slightly apprehensive. It's a nerve-wracking experience to read--let alone hear--someone whose work you love critique your work.

Go take a listen to what he has to say. Then go get Dancing on Tisha B'Av and Raphael's other books. You'll be glad you did. And I'd say that even if he'd said hateful things about JBB. Well, perhaps not. But I'd still think he was a wonderful writer.

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