Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Wish You Were Here

A fiction writer opens up his book to readers

Print Email

When it comes to writing fiction, Ben Greenman works alone—or did, anyway, until last spring. That’s when Greenman, a New Yorker editor and author of the books A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both, Superbad, and Superworse, attended Reboot, an annual gathering of Jews who are more or less under 40 and more or less unaffiliated, and who convene to talk about what being Jewish means—or doesn’t mean—to them.

&lquo;I went to Hebrew school until bar mitzvah, but I didn’t believe any of it, and I said so,” explains the 39-year-old, whose latest project is Correspondences, a limited-edition series of short stories about unhappy people trying to figure out what makes them that way. Still, Greenman (who’s also a Nextbook contributor) found himself open enough to the idea of discussing matters of identity that he agreed to go to Park City, Utah, for the Reboot summit. You get to a certain point of your life and even if you have no interest in accepting a person’s system, you want to reopen the issue for yourself,” he says. Things happen—parents get old, you have children (his are seven and four; the family lives in Brooklyn)—and you want to know you have at least grappled with one of the biggest issues, which is what is there beyond this, even if you’ve decided there’s nothing.”

In Park City, Greenman found that Reboot’s operating principle was based on collaboration, a concept he has traditionally backed away from, preferring to control everything from the arc of a story to the typeface in which it is printed. Participants were encouraged to argue and discuss, and, after they returned home, to work together on projects—publications, films, musical undertakings, and books—that allow them to continue thinking about what being a Jew means. At around the same time that he was getting more comfortable with the idea of creative partnership, Greenman was talking to Alex Rose and Aaron Petrovic, who run the independent Hotel St. George Press, about publishing some of his stories.

photo of 'Correspondences'

We came up with an idea for it—high end, handcrafted letterpress edition that is somewhere between a book and a Fabergé egg.” Though decidedly less sparkly (paper-bag brown and white are the predominant colors) than those storied jewels, Correspondences does indeed open; flaps unfold to make an L, with accordion-shaped stories tucked into pockets of the letter’s arms. The stories themselves are short bursts” in which there’s space to work out issues about God, about family, about responsibility.”

But this time, Greenman isn’t working out these questions by himself. What He’s Poised to Do,” one of the seven stories in the collection, features an unhappy man who decides to extend a stay at a hotel where he does business, leaving his wife and child behind, to figure out what ails him. In the course of the proceedings, the man writes a postcard to his wife. Later, a woman he meets at the hotel bar describes the postcard she sent to an ex-lover. The contents of these postcards, and seven others mentioned throughout the piece, are not accounted for in Greenman’s tale. Instead, Correspondences includes one blank postcard for the reader to compose and send back to the publisher for possible inclusion on a website or in subsequent editions.

This is, he says, a way for people to work through the conflicts in it—whether people have ever betrayed or been betrayed. I would say for 95 to 100 percent of the people the answer is yes.”

Though writers are welcome to submit postcards, all of which will be anonymous, none of the characters whose words readers can imagine are identified themselves as writers. In the story the guy isn’t identified as a writer. He writes because that is what he has to do,” Greenman says. It’s a necessity, not by professional design. I would like to see that process really happen. This is a game version of that, but I still want to see that happen. It would be most interesting for me to get people who sit in the Metrocard booth and they’ve been in a breakup in the past six months. They have access to these emotions.”

Sara Ivry is a senior editor at Nextbook.org and hosts the site’s weekly podcasts.

Print Email

Thank you very much.

Wohh precisely what I was looking for, thankyou for putting up.

You completed some nice points there. I did a search on the issue and found nearly all persons will consent with your blog.

I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

I must point out my gratitude for your generosity for folks who require help on this important topic. Your special dedication to getting the message up and down appears to be especially important and have really empowered most people much like me to attain their goals. Your entire informative help and advice denotes a lot to me and extremely more to my colleagues. Best wishes; from each one of us.

Unquestionably believe that which you saidYour favorite reason appeared to be on the net the easiest thing to be aware ofI say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people consider worries that they just do not know aboutYou managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people could take a signalWill probably be back to get moreThanks

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Wish You Were Here

A fiction writer opens up his book to readers

More on Tablet:

Jon Stewart: ‘Behind Closed Doors I Only Quote Rabbinical Texts’

By Stephanie Butnick — The Daily Show host plugs his new film Rosewater on The Colbert Report