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Monday, July 29, 2013

Late-Night Storytime

I had the closest thing I'm probably going to get to a Kafka release party at this otherworldly party called Chulent. If you've never heard of Chulent (you can read some New York Times articles about it here and here), it's this late-night gathering of independent-thinking and questioning and rebel Hasidim. A while ago, when I ran away from San Francisco and visited Brooklyn for the summer,* a friend brought me to this midnight barbecue of Hasid-types tossing around Sartre and Kirkegaard in a bombed-out building in the middle of a completely-empty factory district. 

Nine years later, they've graduated to a magnificent crumbling synagogue on Ocean Parkway. There's some Russians drinking malt liquor out of brown paper bags and some club kids that speak in fierce Yiddish accents. It's all pretty wonderful.

And at around midnight, we all gathered in a circle in the sanctuary hall and I read them some Kafka.

The remarkable Geo Geller took a series of great pictures (some are here; the rest are on this page). or you can actually listen to the whole reading (with a slideshow). It was the second time I read the book straight through, all three stories, not counting in my kids' bedroom. It was a little bit intense. You can probably hear me breaking up toward  the end of Josefine, which might just be Geo's recording. Yes. Let's chalk it up to that. 

listen .  photos . kafka )

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kafka in Swedish! Kafka in Romanian!

Brief nuggets of awesomeness. Here is a piece of press about Kafka in Swedish.

Matthue Roth säger att han kan räkna upp miljoner skäl till att han valde att förvandla några av just Kafkas berättelser till en barnbok. Hans nya ”My first Kafka” om ”bland annat gnagare och jätteinsekter är nu omskriven lite varstans, av exempelvis New Yorker-bloggens Kelsey Osgood som gillar bearbetningen och noterar att det inte är något nytt att barn fascineras av otäckheter.
And a longer one in Romanian.

Volumul "Prima mea lectură din Kafka" cuprinde fragmente din trei povestiri ale scriitorului ceh de limbă germană Franz Kafka (1883-1924), pe care autorul american le-a rescris sub formă de versuri – „Metamorfoza”, „Excursie în munţi” şi „Cântăreaţa Josephine”. Versurile lui Roth sunt însoţite de ilustraţiile în alb şi negru ale graficianului Rohan Daniel Eason.  Prima strofă din „Metamorfoza” prezintă  schimbarea prin care trece Gregor Samsa, personajul principal al poemului în proză: „Gregor Samsa urât adesea a visat /Într-o dimineaţǎ s-a trezit/Că într-un gândac s-a transformat”. În 2005, M. Roth a publicat prima lui carte, „Never Mind the Goldbergs”, căreia Librăria Publică din New York i-a oferit titlul de Cea mai bună carte

(Goldbergs! They said Goldbergs!)

And Brain Pickings, one of the most gorgeous blogs out there, wrote a lengthy and really complimentary piece about it that talked a warrantedly lot about Rohan's illustrations and called my text "hauntingly beautiful."

And my comic-artist friend Mat just visited, which meant we stayed up late and played games and drew some mini-books, which I'll try to post tomorrow, if I can get them scanned. That's all thanks over and out.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kafka & Kafka

Somebody just sent me this picture, of My First Kafka and Kafka's first Kafka.

Also, if you haven't seen Rohan's work yet, you really need to. In addition to illustrating Kafka, he's done Wolves of Waverly Place and some simply breathtaking other stuff. (Including a gorgeous book that's out of print and like $100 on Amazon, and I wish I had a copy of it.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Life after Kafka

kafka google
It's been a weird run of weeks. My First Kafka is doing amazing. The BBC! The New Yorker! Electric Lit! Google! (Granted, the Google thing was more, well, Kafka himself than the little book that Rohan and I put together, but I'm so not complaining.)

And the same week I got some hugely awful news about a close friend, and some more pretty hugely awful news about my first book, Never Mind the Goldbergs, going out of print -- this had actually happened back in April, but Scholastic didn't tell me, and they sold all the remaining copies to some Amazon reseller, and the only way I found out was that people kept asking me why it was out of stock. (I still have a bunch of copies on my site store, which you can buy if you want, until they run out, and if they do, I'll just send you a pdf if you ask.) And then I came down with this cold that turned into a cough that didn't go away that, apparently, is pneumonia.

Anyway. it's been pretty wild. Thank you for sticking with me. The fact that I have now appeared on the same network as Doctor Who is really all I've ever asked out of life, and I've got it, and the blessings are flooding in like moldy bread.

And now it's the Three Weeks, this period in Judaism where we mourn for the burning of the Temple, and more crazy stuff is happening. I have a ton to say about it, but most of it's not really relevant -- for actual insightful stuff from an Orthodox perspective, you should totally read Rabbi Fink or Yakov Horowitz. Me, I'm just good for stories, mostly. These days I keep getting a Kafka quote stuck in my head: "The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary." (Granted, it was part of the Talmud a while before Kafka, but who am I to come down on the man for appropriation?)

It's almost two in the morning. I have a head stuffed with snot and a brain stuffed with thoughts that won't quit. But the trees look so nice out my window in the streetlights that they're actually glowing, and Brooklyn doesn't feel like an iron city but an actual place to live, and I'm going to try to sleep for a bit before I have to wake up and make video games. Like I said. I'm blessed. Thank you.

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