Thursday, May 05, 2005

Recommended reading

My interview with author Harlan Greene (Why We Never Danced the Charleston and What the Dead Remember) is now on-line at The Forward about his new novel The German Officer’s Boy, about Herschel Grynszpan. On November 7, 1938, Herschel, a 17-year old Jewish youth living illegally in Paris, walked into the German embassy and shot Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat. The assassination triggered Kristallnacht, the organized Nazi pogrom against the Jewish community inside the boundaries of Third Reich and was the symbolic beginning of the Holocaust. I read an early draft of the novel the year it was one of the winners of the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation competition (then titled The Lost Light). Greene’s vivid, complex novel details the affair between Herschel and Ernst and Herschel’s subsequent time at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and it is a masterful weaving of deception, twists, cover-ups, politics, and public relations ploys during Herschel’s confinement.

I may be biased here (because he was the editor of my recent collection of short stories), but Kevin Bentley’s new memoir, Let’s Shut out the World, is simply divine. On a trip to San Francisco last year I heard Kevin tell his story (over cocktails on the deck of his partner's house in the Russian River) of visiting the miracle dirt chapel in New Mexico and it was both hilarious and magical and I was delighted to find it included in the book. The narrative essays are both comic and poignant, and I particularly enjoyed the title story of how one woman and one house can contain both the elements of lesbian history and unimaginable clutter and the final essay "Party of Two" about Bentley’s current partner Paul. Bravo!