Category: Authors

Family Repast, a story by Daniel Shapiro

The following is from Daniel Shapiro’s collection-in-progress “The Winged Aureole,” a series of linked stories that follow the origins, relationships, and adventures of the Marajda-Aronson extended family over several generations, from the late nineteenth century to the post-WWII period. The collection continues where the poems from Shapiro’s Woman at the Cusp of Twilight (2016) left off, exploring characters inspired by members of his maternal family. 

 

Family Repast

—Shulamith

On one of the rare occasions he was home for dinner, Papa used the opportunity to enlighten us.  Tonight, he reached for the platter of flanken in the center of the table; as he dished some into his plate and passed it on, he looked at me and then Solly.  Mama was feeding Judy in the high-chair; the baby waved her fists up and down.

“I know you know all about your mother’s family, but what do you know about mine?”

Mama turned, holding the spoon in her right hand, eyes twinkling.  Steam rose from the tureen of kasha, for a moment clouding her face.  I could see it coming, Mama teasing Papa, an age-old game they both seemed to play:  “Papa’s family comes from Sany, that town in Lithuania.  That’s why they’re all insany.  Willy, Tilly, and Silly. . . .”

“Please, Esther.”  He pretended to be offended but it all seemed in good fun.

“You know it’s true, Will.”  She turned toward Solly and continued.  “Your father’s sister Anna once asked me, ‘who do you like better, your mother or mine?’”

“What did you answer, Mama?” I asked, playing along, pretending I’d never heard this one before.  As I waited for her response, I examined the piles of food I’d neatly arranged on my plate.

“I told her, ‘I like them both the same.’”

“At least you were diplomatic,” Papa said.

“Another time,” Mama continued, looking around at us, “when we were courting, I visited Will’s home for a meal; it was a blazing-hot afternoon and his sisters invited me to take a bath.  Just what the doctor ordered but can you imagine?  After I got settled in, bubbles and all, I looked up from the tub, and noticed ‘the seven sisters’ staring at me, through the open door!”

“You piqued their curiosity, Esther, you knew that.”  He speared a potato with his fork.  “They were quite a bunch,” he seemed to be confirming to himself.  “Yes, your grandparents were admirable people, children.  Not the Torah scribes of your mother’s side, of course—”

The baby knocked her bottle over and Mama briskly righted it again.  “They were people of the book, Will, don’t forget that.  Mamelas, eat your spinach and corn, you know the importance of green and yellow vegetables.”

“Yes, to avoid ‘night blindness,’ Mama,” Solly rolled his eyes at me; I returned his look with a half-amused glance.

“By the way, dear, excellent supper,” Papa changed the subject. “It beats what they’re serving at the White House tonight, according to the papers:  Mrs. Nesbitt’s liver and string beans!”

“Yeccch!”

“Now, son.”

Mama couldn’t help herself:  “Apropos of that, Willy, I heard the president had Justice Frankfurter over for lunch and that’s what he was served:  a frankfurter!”

“I read it, too, dear, it’s the ‘talk of the town.’  But to get back to my mother, Grandma Soroya—”

“Didn’t she run a restaurant with Grandpa?” I asked.

“She certainly did,” Mama broke in.  “She carried teabags in her apron from customers who left them on their plates.”

Papa flashed her a slightly hurt look. Or was he just pretending? “She was frugal, pious, kind, a support to your Grandpa Solomon at work and home.  During Sukkos, in fact, he’d lower a bucket of food to the Sukkah, the one he built in the courtyard every year, where he used to pray.  And Grandpa—”

“Your father and his sisters used to freeze when they heard him coming up the steps.”

Papa saw a rare opening to Mama’s relentless teasing. “Yes, we were scared of him, true, but that’s how patriarchs were treated in those days.  Just look at your Grandpa Max, what a temper.”

“He slammed the door the other day when Grandma was cooking us tsimmes,” I said.  “Then he looked sad.”

Mama started to speak but blushed.  She glanced at her plate of untouched food—then motioned to Solly to refill his own.  Papa went on.

“Grandpa Solomon, whose name you bear, son, once was overpaid twenty-five cents and he walked three miles, all uphill, in the snow to return it.  We learned ethics from him, the six-hundred-thirty-five mizvot.  Those were commandments, not deeds.”

“Did he go to the Yeshiva, Pa, like me?”  His words were thick as he chewed on flanken.

“He studied and prayed,” Mama cut in, trying to gain the advantage again, “and especially for a son.  Imagine, they had seven girls before ‘the beautiful Julius’ was born.  And then came George and your father, children.”

I thought for a moment, fiddling with my carrots.  Then something came to me, a detail I’d just remembered about one of the uncles Mama had mentioned, Papa’s eldest brother.  One of the mysteries in our family.  “Papa, why does Uncle George wear all those watches up and down his arms?”

Now it was Papa who blushed.  “I’ll leave that to your mother to explain.”

And so, before the compote of apples and stewed plums, Mama embarked on her story about the “black sheep” of the Aronson clan and how he married “The Iron Claw,” as Mama dubbed her. We often didn’t know distant relatives’ real names, only the nicknames Mama assigned to them; in any case, Mama was convinced that this “Iron Claw,” her sister-in-law, was robbing her husband George blind. Uncle George, oblivious to all that, according to Mama, became so obsessed with other things, like time passing, “so distracted in fact,” as Mama put it, that he began wearing multiple watches—up to five of them on each arm.

We all fixed our gaze on her, like “Follow the Leader,” as she wove the story, none of us knowing where or how it would all end.  We happily went along for the ride, even Papa, who seemed delighted with Mama’s narrative gift.  Blue eyes sparkling and flourishing her spoon as if it were a baton, she spoke in between feeding Judy spoonfuls of the mashed peas-and-kasha mixture in her bowl.  The baby gurgled after each mouthful, as if punctuating the tale.

 

# # # # #

 


(Photo by Elsa Ruiz)

About Daniel Shapiro

Daniel Shapiro is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, Child with a Swan’s Wings (2018), and the translator of various works, including Roberto Ransom’s Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists (2018), and Tomás Harris’s Cipango (2010; starred review, Library Journal). A bilingual selection from Cipango appeared in Issue 11 of Interlitq. Additional selections from his own poetry collections appeared in issue 20 of Interlitq. Shapiro has received translation fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and PEN. He is a Distinguished Lecturer and Editor of Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages & Literatures at The City College of New York, CUNY.

“Do Pixies Really Exist?” A story by Daniel Shapiro

The following is from Daniel Shapiro’s collection-in-progress “The Winged Aureole,” a series of linked stories that follow the origins, relationships, and adventures of the Marajda-Aronson extended family over several generations, from the late nineteenth century to the post-WWII period. The collection continues where the poems from Shapiro’s Woman at the Cusp of Twilight (2016) left off, exploring characters inspired by members of his maternal family. 

 

Do Pixies Really Exist?

“Look over there, Solly, at that blinking green light!”

Shulamith had awakened her brother in the middle of the night and the two snuck out of the dark house in their pajamas, carrying a flashlight and shovel from the tool-shed. They were hiding behind the rosebushes to see the pixies when they came out to play.

“It’ll be just like in Peter Pan, when the sky starts getting light.  They’ll appear like Tinkerbell at the edge of the lawn, dancing on dewdrops.”

“I’m tired, Shulamith, can’t I go back to bed?”

“Not until we see them.  In my blue fairy-tale book it says if they’re flying, you’ll see a reflection of their little wings in the moonlight.  Now the moon is covered by a cloud.”  But when it beamed through, “What’s that, over there?”

Solly shone the flashlight on the lawn, scanning it like a search-beam.  “Nothin.”

“I also read that they mostly live underground.  So let’s start digging beneath the rosebushes.”

“But Pa will get mad; he just clipped them today.”

“Never mind, we’ll put it all back.  Here, this looks like a good spot. Solly, start digging.  Just be careful, we don’t want to scare them, just have a peek at their little lair.  We might see mice in pumpkin carriages pulled by beetles, roots like fingers that curl toward the sky, lady pixies fluttering on dragonfly wings.”

“I’m scared, Shulamith, maybe they’ll bite or put a spell on us.”

Shulamith laughed.  “Don’t you know, Solly?  They’re mischievous but good.  As good as Glinda the Witch of the North, remember her?  Anyway, don’t be such a fraidy cat.  Don’t you want to see where they live?”

“Mama and Papa’ll never believe us.”  He wiped his brow and leaned his cheek on the shovel’s handle.

“Sure they will.  Pick up that maple leaf on the lawn.  We’ll set it over there; it’ll be our offering, so they can shade themselves from the moon.  They’ll leave their fairy dust on the leaf; they say it shimmers gold and silver in the dark.  Irrefutable proof.”

“I wanna go back to sleep, Shulamith.  Tomorrow Uncle Phil’s coming early to take me and Ronnie to Ebbets Field.”

“Tomorrow is tomorrow and anyway, a baseball game isn’t as important as—”

“It is so!”

“OK, ok, just calm down and follow me.  I’m wrapping this see-through cloak around me as a disguise. Here, you can, too. They’re shy with humans but not children.  After we greet them and show we’re friends, we’ll ask them to show us how they alight from tree to tree.  You know that mayonnaise jar we brought?”

“Yeah.”

“We’ll ask them for the firefly that flickers green like that first light we saw.  We’ll promise to return it, of course.  We just want to prove to our parents that pixies really exist.”

“Someone’s coming.  I heard the door open!”

“Shhh.  Maybe it’s Papa, he sometimes wakes up to get a glass of milk.  Get down so he doesn’t see us.”  They both scrunched down, then after a moment, got up.

“There, it’s quiet again.”

Suddenly a pair of headlights swept the dark lawn and a vehicle rolled by on East 12th Street toward Gravesend Road.  The engine’s roar faded with a squeal of tires farther away.

“That must have scared them.”  Shulamith was pensive.  Then she pointed toward the hedge next door and Solly swung the flashlight in that direction.  A pair of gold disks shone in the night.

“She’s a big one, I told you.  The Pixie Queen.”  Shulamith turned to her brother, whose face was trembling, mouth open, looking as if he was about to break.

“It’s ok, Solly, don’t cry.”

 


(Photo by Elsa Ruiz)

About Daniel Shapiro

Daniel Shapiro is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, Child with a Swan’s Wings (2018), and the translator of various works, including Roberto Ransom’s Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists (2018), and Tomás Harris’s Cipango (2010; starred review, Library Journal). A bilingual selection from Cipango appeared in Issue 11 of Interlitq. Additional selections from his own poetry collections appeared in issue 20 of Interlitq. Shapiro has received translation fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and PEN. He is a Distinguished Lecturer and Editor of Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages & Literatures at The City College of New York, CUNY.

David Garyan interviews Jean Findlay, Head of Publishing at Scotland Street Press

David Garyan interviews Jean Findlay, Head of Publishing at Scotland Street Press

Interlitq Interview Series

 

Read Jean Findlay’s article, “Price Beyond Rubies: On Writing The Hat Jewel.”

 

DG: As an artist, you’ve worked and continue to be involved in a wide range of disciplines—from playwriting to having run your own theater company, but also journalism, fiction, and non-fiction. How did it all start and what you led you to become both the Founder and Head of Publishing of an independent label, called Scotland Street Press?

JF: My career did not have a logical or planned progression. I studied Law, French and Philosophy at Edinburgh University. I spent one year of an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in London, although at the same time I was running a theatre company in Edinburgh for which I made the posters, raised the funding, acted in and operated the lighting.  The company became huge and by the time I was 26 there were 70 employees and it was touring in Europe to great acclaim. I wrote and directed my first plays with large casts: the first was a group of strippers from the Edinburgh bars for whom I asked the choreographer Liz Rankin, who was working with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the time, to come and direct the movement.  It was unforgettable, especially the piece she developed for opera music. The theatre company burnt me out and I moved to journalism and to London, writing theatre reviews and directing the performance poet Murray Lachlan Young.  This evolved into travel, book reviews and arts features and one salient interview with the Russian poet Irina Ratushinskaya, whom I admire greatly. By this time I had my first son and I reduced work, although there was a short stint as a director at the National Youth Theatre. I kept writing plays while having a second son, and worked at a number of jobs; teaching drama, taking portraits, and eventually winning the commission from Chatto and Windus to write the biography of C.K. Scott Moncrieff. This was a good thing to combine with being a single mother (which is what I had become by this point) and I am grateful to the Hyam Wingate Foundation and the Society of Authors for helping to fund the long period of research and writing.

This book did very well, and more was written about it in good reviews than there is between the boards. However, I still had a vast amount of material and wanted to publish a collection of Scott Moncrieff’s own writings: short stories that were originally published by T S Eliot in The Criterion and war poetry.  Chatto and Windus did not want to publish this, so I set up Scotland Street Press, called after the street we were living in at the time in Edinburgh.

 

DG: Aside from your own impressive artistic career, you also have the good fortune of being the great-great-niece of C.K. Scott Moncrieff—the man who first translated Remembrance of Things Past (also known as In Search of Lost Time) into English and about whom you’ve already written a fantastic biography published by Chatto & Windus. Can you describe the writing process, along with perhaps some of the surprising things you discovered looking through the family archives, and also how Moncrieff’s wonderful, translation shaped all the subsequent ones done by others? Indeed, it was a very good translation, despite what Proust may have thought at the time, and it’s still considered one of the best today. 

JF: My mother handed me a battered suitcase full of the papers of her great uncle, the translator of Proust. It contained diaries and notebooks, poems, doodles, limericks and receipts, letters to US publishers and wrangles with Pirandello’s agent.   I had never written a book before, but as my mother, grandfather and great-great uncle had all been writers, I took it for granted that I could.  I must admit that my first attempt at the 10,000 word proposal was terrible and my agent must have despaired, however he managed to get a commission and to secure Jenny Uglow, the eminent biographer, as my editor.  Having such a great agent and editor was a stroke of luck.  Jenny took a red pen to every chapter I sent her and I learnt like a pupil at school.  All of Scott Moncrieff’s papers were not in the suitcase, there were hundreds of letters in private and public collections in the US and the UK. I travelled to The Berg Collection in New York for the letters to Sir Edward Marsh, to Reading for the massive correspondence with his UK publisher. The National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh holds the correspondence with the poet Robert Graves and the English Faculty Library, Oxford, has those to Wilfred Owen. It was a great adventure, not least visiting the battlefields of Ypres and Arras where Charles fought during the First World War and was eventually wounded.  But it was at the National Archives in Kew where I discovered what no one knew, that during his post war years in Italy, he was working not only as a translator, but as a spy for the British Government.

Scott Moncrieff also translated Abelard and Eloise, Beowulf, the Chanson de Roland, and much of Stendhal and Pirandello. He sold both Proust and Pirandello to the English speaking world.

As for his translation of Proust, many great writers including Joseph Conrad and Scott Fitzgerald held it to be a masterpiece in itself.  Virginia Woolf and James Joyce acknowledge its influence.

 

DG: Certainly, as a writer, you’ve had great success and are now enjoying similarly positive developments as a publisher. It would be interesting to hear about a few of the new and exciting things we can expect from Scotland Street Press in the near future, and, perhaps, also to know a bit about the some of the staff and agents who will help make it possible.

JF: Scotland Street Press was founded the proceeds of the US rights sale of the aforementioned biography, so I see us standing on the shoulders of giants: Proust and Scott Moncrieff and the writers they knew.  As I like to take on first-time authors and poets, and translations from Belarus, these are necessary shoulders to stand on. Although the staff have changed constantly over the first few years of start-up, relying heavily on volunteers, we are now a team of four women working part-time: Lucrezia Gaion, Antonia Weir, Kate Jowett and myself.  Last year we were proud to publish Alindarka’s Children, a difficult translation of a Belarusian novel in two languages, which won an English Pen Award and was long-listed for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. This year we have a themed schedule called International Women Series 2021, and this includes three poets who have collaborated with artists to create books that are conversations between art and poetry. Do look on our website for the titles : A Song to Keep, Restricted Movement, and Patient Dignity.  The first will launch on the 6th May on our YouTube channel, and everyone is invited to watch this stunning short film about the artists. I am lucky to work with young people who have constant inspiration and enthusiasm.

Like theatre, publishing is a collaborative art.

 

DG: I would like to speak now about your early days in theater; there will naturally be many who might disagree with me, but I’ve always felt this particular artform to be more intimate and personal than reading a novel, or even hearing a poem—an experience which does entail the presence of performative qualities. Since you’ve worked as both a playwright and novelist, it would be interesting to hear not only your perspective on which genre best captures the human condition but also which one you ultimately feel more fondness for, and why? In other words, what are some things you’ve done in plays that wouldn’t have been possible to do in a novel, and, likewise, what are things that now draw you to the novel?

JF: To go from writing plays to non-fiction and then to fiction is like taking giant strides in different directions, while circling around the centre. I agree with you, theatre is the purest, most direct form of artistic communication. My journey away from it was purely for reasons of survival: there is not a lot of funding out there for theatre. I don’t think I would have been able to raise a family while working in theatre. There is also the fact that theatre involves much travel and high nervous energy, which doesn’t work with providing a stable family home. But ultimately my heart is in theatre, I agree that it best captures the human condition, it speaks directly to the soul of a huge audience; you have a collective response and an individual response, and the power of being able to move people is much greater.

 

DG: Would you ever consider staging—either in parts or in its entirety—your novel-in-progress, The Hat Jewel, after it has been completed, or are you firmly committed to keeping this particular work on the page? In either case, it would be interesting to know why.

JF: I would love to stage The Hat Jewel!  Actually, the first response of the first reader was, “It reads like a play.” There are parts of it, especially the parts with the Fool, which are very funny; and the rest would work as a pageant of Scottish history. Again, it would come down to fundraising, but I expect I am better at that now.

 

DG: Speaking of the page, many people now wonder about the future of printed books. Having already discussed playwriting, the analogy could, perhaps, be constructed in this way: Flipping through the pages of a printed book (and to make it more interesting, let it be a rare first edition) versus reading the same text digitally is like having the privilege of watching an amazing performance in presence instead of merely witnessing it online—the parallel isn’t one-hundred percent accurate, but there’s some logic in it. My question, hence, is two-fold: Firstly, how do you see the proliferation of e-books? Secondly, will they completely replace printed ones soon, and if so, will that increase or decrease readership in general?

JF: Just as online performances will never replace theatre, so ebooks will never outsell printed books. As publishers we get yearly data on ebook versus printed book sales and even during lockdown when ebooks had their ultimate boost, printed books were still vastly more popular even though more expensive and more difficult to obtain.  Most people are not fully satisfied by virtual experience. Scotland Street Press publishes books with feel and colour and paintings and different types of covers.  We have an excellent designer in Antonia Weir who is also incidentally a theatre artist. This summer we hope to stage outdoor poetry readings during the Edinburgh Fringe, with the entry ticket being the purchase of a poetry book.  As all of our books are cheaper than your average theatre ticket, we are providing great value.

 

DG: As you’ve worked and been successful in a number of artistic fields, what advice would you give journalists, playwrights, and novelists on the eve of their careers?

JF: Do you mean dawn of their careers?  There’s not much left at the eve?

If you mean beginning, then I would say: always put the demands of life before the demands of art.  There are many who would put career first, especially women who will put off having children in case they interfere with an artistic career. But I would say there is no art without life. My best ideas have come though working with my own children or with young people, and there is no greater creative production in existence than giving birth.  I’d go so far as to say that if you want to understand creativity in its fullest sense, then you cannot get any nearer than creating another human being. It stretches every faculty, and we are here to be stretched. That of course puts Proust and Scott Moncrieff in a different light, but I expect they would have agreed with me.

If you actually do mean ‘eve of career’, and I certainly don’t think I have reached that yet, then the answer is: never give up, always go back to the blank canvas.  There are novelists like Mary Wesley who started writing at 70 and had a full career beyond, or PD James and Diana Athill who wrote and published well into their 90s.  I look to them and see myself as a youngster.

 

About Jean Findlay

Jean Findlay was born in Edinburgh. She studied Law and French at Edinburgh University under Peter France and Theatre under Tadeusz Kantor in Kracow, Poland. She co-founded an award winning theatre company and wrote and produced plays which toured to London, Berlin, Bonn, Rotterdam, Dublin, Glasgow and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. She spent years in London writing drama and book reviews for the Scotsman, and has written for the IndependentTime Out and the Guardian.  In 2014 she published Chasing Lost Time: The Life of CK Scott Moncrieff, Soldier, Spy and Translator with Chatto and Windus, now in Vintage paperback and with FSG in New York. She founded Scotland Street Press in Edinburgh in 2014 and now runs this small, award-winning publishing house. For writing The Hat Jewel she won a Hawthornden Fellowship 2018 and a Lavigny International Writer’s Fellowship 2019.

 

“The Music Lesson,” a story by Daniel Shapiro

The following is from Daniel Shapiro’s collection-in-progress “The Winged Aureole,” a series of linked stories that follow the origins, relationships, and adventures of the Marajda-Aronson extended family over several generations, from the late nineteenth century to the post-WWII period. The collection continues where the poems from Shapiro’s Woman at the Cusp of Twilight (2016) left off, exploring characters inspired by members of his maternal family. 

 

The Music Lesson

The whole thing had been Mama’s idea.  First the Yeshiva, now this.  I was as hopeless at studying the Talmud as at playing the violin.  And Mr. Curteau would be here in a half-hour for my Saturday lesson.  I’d rather be out playing baseball with the fellas.  They were probably getting a game together right now up on Neck Road.  But if I could master some of these fingerings, maybe I could finish early and join them.  I wouldn’t mind learning a piece or two, maybe Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody” or “Flight of the Bumble-bee.”  Ha!  If I was lucky!

Mama always beams when Mr. Curteau arrives.  Goatee and bowtie, “so European.”  She fawns on him so obviously, I’m only a pretext for her fun. “Make sure my son plays all his scales in every key.”  After the lesson, she always offers him tea and danish.  “Oh, Mr. Curteau, tell us about Vienna before the Great War.” At those moments I drum my fingers on the formica table but Mr. Curteau misunderstands. “Excellent, Solomon, that’s a waltz rhythm,” lifting his fork as if to conduct.  I just look down and roll my eyes.

Papa’s in Hoboken, like every Saturday, another building to visit.  This time it’s a burst pipe because of the cold snap and the immediate thaw.  “A real mess,” he’d lamented to Mama, as he pushed his fedora down on his crown on his way out the door.  Why can’t he ever spend a weekend at home?  And when he’s here, doing stuff I like to do?  I want to practice batting or shooting baskets and all Papa urges me to do is read.

Mama, too—Shakespeare, Longfellow, Walt Whitman, and now all those assignments from the Yeshiva.  The rabbis there are relentless and the Talmud’s a bore.  When I complain, Mama fondly quotes Dr. Benderly, that paragon of Jewishness, back from her days when she worked for him, at the Bureau of Jewish Education; I think that’s what it was called.  “But Ma,” I retort, “he never attended a Yeshiva—he was a medical man, in fact!”  “It doesn’t matter.  It’s what he became.  Now back to your books.”

My mornings are a nightmare.  Always the nausea before school.  Mama hands me the violin and tells me to practice “Für Elise” or “Brahms’s Lullaby.”  Then she returns to flipping the eggs, stirring the farina, or pulling the metal-toothed brush through Shulamith’s hair; she always winces but doesn’t say a thing. Judy is screaming and has to be attended to, so Mama turns down the flame, picks her up, and nudges the bottle between her lips.  Then my screeching begins as I draw the horsehair bow over the strings.  Papa sitting in his chair, at the head of the table, reads the paper and sips his tea.  I have to hand it to the guy, he’s always the perfect gentleman: amid the storm and confusion of the morning, he never complains.

I roll my eyes again and open the violin case, begin rosining my bow.  Mr. C. will be here any minute.  First position, second, third. . . .  Maybe on Sunday Uncle Phil will take me to Ebbets Field.

Then from the door, I hear Mama’s voice in her lilting refrain, “Oh, Mr. Curteau!”

 


(Photo by Elsa Ruiz)

About Daniel Shapiro

Daniel Shapiro is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, Child with a Swan’s Wings (2018), and the translator of various works, including Roberto Ransom’s Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists (2018), and Tomás Harris’s Cipango (2010; starred review, Library Journal). A bilingual selection from Cipango appeared in Issue 11 of Interlitq. Additional selections from his own poetry collections appeared in issue 20 of Interlitq. Shapiro has received translation fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and PEN. He is a Distinguished Lecturer and Editor of Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages & Literatures at The City College of New York, CUNY.