CHEKHOV WAS A DOCTOR
a novel by Jack Pulaski
ISBN 0-939010-81-X (paper), $12.95
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Chekhov Was a Doctor goes around the world in eight hours of nonstop reading and comes home full of adventure, full of experience and, despite the folly of it all, still ravenous for the stuff of life. This novel is a lively and poignant first-person narrative, and Jack Pulaski is a consummate storyteller. Reading it is like having lived both its content and the making of its artful container.
to Jack Pulaski's April 10th, 2005 reading at Sweeties in San Francisco.
(This is an MP3 file.)
For the past fifteen years Zephyr Press has been home to the immigrant communities of Jack Pulaski. Puerto Rican, Russian-Jewish, and Italian cultures collide in homage to the passions and histories that fuel our waking and dreaming lives. Pulaski's stories weave the myriad characters into a fable where the sacred and profane are inextricably wed.
The novel Chekhov Was a Doctor is structured as a triptych that first follows Davey as a small boy through the streets of Brooklyn, next to the turmoil of army bases in Japan and Korea, and then finally back to the Bronx and Lower East Side of New York as he and Elena await the birth of their first child.
As Pulaski has returned to the fiction of his life he's more than surprised, but not shocked to recognize that an essential aspect of the same obsession has pulled him back—or propelled him forward. To learn what? He is only interested in the “creative process” inasmuch as it is a story.
And again a love story. A protagonist discovering the terms of his life, which are the always to be discovered requirements of his art: a peculiar virginal state, more promising than Candide's dogmatic optimism.
Pulaski recognizes that there is still something he is trying to get right—to discover. He is of necessity a slow learner, incapable of trusting illustrative thematic questions; his only option is to travel with the protagonists of Chekhov Was A Doctor, Davey and Elena, to see what he can see. They bear unmistakable affinities with Laura Providencia and Isaac, the lovers in his previous novel, Courting Laura Providencia. Still, the souls of Elena and Davey are their own, as is their adventure and what they enact should provide the author with further education, and the reader with (hopefully) the idiosyncratic gratifications of a tale of significant ambition.
GREATEST HITS: TWELVE YEARS
OF COMPOST MAGAZINE
Edited by Margaret Bezucha and Kevin Gallagher
ISBN 0-939010-77-1 (paper) $14.95
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6 x 9
A celebration of writing from twelve years of the magazine compost, including work by: Connie Deanovich, Denise Duhamel, Marjorie Agosin, Victor Hernandez Cruz, James Laughlin, Rosmarie Waldrop, Rosanna Warren, Ed Bullins, William Corbett, Robert Pinsky, Martha Nussbaum, Sam Cornish, Eavan Boland, and Bei Dao.
From the introduction by Bezucha and Gallagher
Those of us who came to found compost, a handful of young poets and artists then living in Jamaica Plain (one of Boston's southern neighborhoods), saw ourselves as part of that seemingly growing cast of those seeking a different world. How could the Berlin Wall have just fallen, Mandela have just become victorious in South Africa, Pinochet have left office, and Europe have just united into a common market, all peacefully, while the United States pursued war overseas, and seemed blissful at home?
We saw the world of poetry in the United States as no more than a mirror of this paradox. When you would have thought that poetry was about to rise in an attempt to explain the changing world, the most famous discussion of poetry was an essay turned book called Can Poetry Matter?—documenting how the U.S. poetry readership was at an all time low and was bordering on the irrelevant.
… It was our view that poetry in the U.S. had become extremely provincial, and we set out to help expose readers of poetry to the exciting poetries outside the U.S. We met Kevin Bowen, poet and director of the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and its Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. We had heard that Kevin was bringing a few poets from Vietnam to Boston to give readings, workshops, and most importantly, to review recently released documents that were captured by the U.S. forces in Vietnam in the 1970s. When we asked Kevin if we could meet one or two of the poets and ask them for a poem or two, Kevin replied by setting up countless meetings with all the poets and by handing us literally hundreds of pages of unpublished material. “Use what you like,” Kevin said. Well, for a group of artists a generation removed from the Vietnam conflict, this was a moving experience. Kevin's gift sparked months of research and understanding on our part with regards to the U.S. war, the country of Vietnam, its language, and its poetry. Since we had so much material, we decided to publish a large section. Little did we know that we were the first venue in the U.S. to publish the poetry of North Vietnam. This was in 1994, more than twenty years after the conflict had ended!
We had learned so much from that experience, and received such great feedback from our peers and counterparts, that we decided to do such a feature in every issue. We went on to feature the poetry of contemporary Haiti, China, Zimbabwe, Armenia, Ireland, and women poets from Calcutta, India. In addition, we did a section on Latino poetry in the U.S. In each case, we did not pretend to be experts on the country or culture we were featuring, and worked with guest editors who were experts in each area. In addition to Kevin Bowen, we are indebted to Bei Ling, Danielle Legros Georges and Patrick Sylvain, Sue Standing, Diana Der-Hovanessian, Carolyne Wright, and Cindy Schuster for playing the role of guest editor in many issues. Selections from each of these editions are included in this volume.
Much of the inspiration for our international slant on poetry came from James Laughlin and Kenneth Rexroth. Laughlin because his New Directions introduced generations of readers in the U.S. to world literatures, and Rexroth because he did the actual translation of many of those literatures. Over the years, we have paid homage to each of these extraordinary individuals.
A RUMBA OF THIS AMERICAN LIFE
Courting Laura Providencia is Jack Pulaski's first novel, and first major work since The St. Veronica Gig Stories (published by Zephyr) in 1986. Fifteen years in the writing, the novel bursts forth with a cast of characters that are sometimes warm and familiar, and at other times violently distorted as in a funhouse mirror. Courting Laura Providencia is a literary devotional; a rumba of this American life; a tale of love and the occasional fall or return to redemption.
Pulaski has a gift for combining the lyrical with the earthy.
—N.Y. Times Book Review
Jack Pulaski writes convincingly about so many different cultures it is hard to pigeonhole him. He looks at life through the eyes of Jews, Italians and Puerto Ricans, each change of heart and mind as believable as the one that preceded it.
The writing is dense, sensual, often hilarious and entirely confident; the characters are real, with sights, sounds, and smells crowding the page.
—The Seattle Times
It all started when I was in the seventh grade and decided to play hooky. The day suddenly turned dark and it rained. I took refuge in a public library, and from that day on my intermittent attendance of public schools never interfered with my reading. How this inexhaustible love became the need to write fiction is a mystery I am unable to analyze; it is sufficient that learning the craft of fiction requires more than one lifetime, and I'm a slow learner.
It is my hope that each chapter holds complete sway over the reader as a short story or novella would, and as the reader moves from chapter to chapter, the appreciation of the larger vision of the history, which is the inheritance of Isaac and Laura Providencia's marriage, is conveyed to the reader with something of the same force and bafflement as is the experience of Isaac and Laura.
I have avoided the conventional movement of plot as a confluence of fate or destiny, and I hope that the kind of gratification that the reader usually finds in such symmetry will be surpassed by a keener sense of verisimilitude, and the mystery of all that makes up the life of Laura Providencia and Isaac. Everything happens at once and the multiple enchantments are also the story.
It may be that I've worried too much over the issue of genre, though I'm not truly concerned with vindicating any theory, but rather making use of the story telling strengths of the various forms of fiction; and what were the startling innovations of Garcia Marquez, J.B. Singer, and others are now conventions—an arsenal and a means of enriching the reading experience of readers.
—Jack Pulaski, Fall 2001
Jack Pulaski grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. His stories have appeared in The Iowa Review, Ohio Review, Ploughshares, MSS., and The New England Review, as well as in two anthologies: The Pushcart Prize I and The Ploughshares Reader. He is the recipient of a fiction award from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, and his stories have twice been singled out for high praise in the Nelson Algren Short Fiction Contest. Pulaski currently lives in Vermont.
Letters from Mississippi's 1964 “FREEDOM SUMMER”
LETTERS FROM MISSISSIPPI: Reports from Civil Rights Volunteers
& Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer
Edited by Elizabeth Martínez
ISBN-13: 978-0-939010-92-9 (paper), $16.95
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5½ x 8¼
I am so grateful readers have been given this new opportunity to hear the story of Freedom Summer told directly by some of the young people who helped make that extraordinary moment happen.Letters from Mississippi gives us a deeply personal look at one of the Civil Rights Movement's key moments—and reminds us that change happens because regular people have decided they were willing to fight for it.
—Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children's Defense Fund
These letters in perceptiveness, freshness of detail and description, variety of events and situations, and range of experience are unlike anything I've since encountered in civil rights literature. Collectively, they constitute an irreplaceable record of an extraordinary movement in American social and cultural history at midcentury.
—Ekwueme Michael Thelwell
During the summer of 1964, a presidential election year, SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) sent volunteers into Mississippi to expand Black voter registration in the state, to organize a legally constituted "Freedom Democratic Party" that would challenge the whites-only Mississippi Democratic party, to establish "freedom schools" which taught reading and math to Black children, and to open community centers where individuals could obtain legal and medical assistance.
This expanded version of Letters from Mississippi retains the introduction by Julian Bond, while updating the biographies of over a dozen volunteers from that summer, and, most important, adds over 40 pages of poetry that was written by students in the Freedom Schools, along with the original preface by Langston Hughes.
Elizabeth Martínez is a Chicana writer, activist and teacher. She speaks on racism, multiculturalism, women's struggles and today's new movements. In the 1960s and 70s, she worked in the Black civil rights movement and the Chicano movement. She co-founded and currently chairs the Institute for MultiRacial Justice to help build alliances between communities of color. Martínez is the author of six books and numerous articles.
Also Available: De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century by Elizabeth Martínez (foreword by Angela Y. Davis) [South End Press: ISBN 0-89608-583-X, trade paper; ISBN 0-89608-127-3, trade cloth]
Gnosticism and the body
MY FIRST PAINTING WILL BE “THE ACCUSER”
ISBN 0-9761612-0-6 (paper) $12.95
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Inspired speech recording its own fall into dead letter, the poems of Philip Jenks are strange, original, terrifying. A stuttered apocalypse, they affirm our fellowship with all matter while suffering divinity's perpetual departure from our midst.
The second full-length volume from Jenks expands on the blistering lyrics of On the Cave You Live In (Flood Editions), by moving further into equal mixtures of social critique and sonic pattern. Philip Jenks grew up in West Virginia. He completed a Master's degree in creative writing at Boston University, and his ongoing engagement with Appalachian culture and politics led him to the University of Kentucky, where he worked at the Appalachian Center. In 2002, Jenks received his doctorate in Political Science. He currently is an assistant professor at Portland State University.
Visual cue in the title notwithstanding, Jenks's new collection is utterly aural. As he writes in his “poem for U. S. Maple”: “jesus said look no further / it's all in the hearing.” The rhymes and razor-sharp scaffolding of sound that vertically hold each page together do not, however, make for a page-bound poetry. These poems, baffled by boundaries—sea/land, inside the mind/outside the body—are “voiced” in the Joycean sense, muttered in prayer, proclaimed in anger, recording the experience of “being” at sea: “He falls apart / off his bones in the aisle and is a wander / plus a satyr hs vicious logos…” Through ample use of the prefix “hy” Jenks removes both the “his” and “story” from history and leaves us in animal sensation: “hyster,” or womb, the ultimate threshold between land and sea. And thus we have: hydra, hysterated, hysterectomy. This beautiful hermetic work is guided by an exacting craftsman possessed of an ethical mind.
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF FROST'S 1962 VISIT
TO THE SOVIET UNION
BACK IN PRINT AFTER THIRTY YEARS
ROBERT FROST IN RUSSIA
by F.D. Reeve
ISBN 0-939010-63-1 (paper), $13.95
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5½ x 7½
At the height of the Cold War in 1962, the most American of poets traveled to the Soviet Union to confront Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Robert Frost in Russia endures as a portrait of the American poet and the Soviet culture he witnessed. First printed in 1964—and out of print for the last 30 years—this updated version is augmented by a new, retrospective introduction by the noted poet, scholar and translator F.D. Reeve. This edition also includes an exhaustive set of endnotes to the events and individuals who appear throughout the text, and never before published photographs of the trip.
Besides Frost's lucid—and sometimes curmudgeonly—critiques of American and Russian society in the midst of the Cold War, Reeve's memoir contains intimate portrayals of Russian poets such as Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky, and Anna Akhmatova, as well as Frost's infamous conversation with Premier Khrushchev. Robert Frost in Russia is both a fascinating document of the Cold War era, and an essential fragment of Frost's personal and poetic biography.
Poet and translator Reeve provides a new introduction, new photos, and very useful endnotes to his account of Robert Frost's 1962 goodwill trip to the Soviet Union…. [Originally] published in 1964, a year after the poet's death, Reeve's day-by-day account nevertheless captures the essence of the good, grumbly man-of-letters: cantankerous, insightful, highly self-conscious of public scrutiny. Reeve, at the time a young college professor brought along to translate, remains unobtrusive throughout as Frost encounters writers as voluble as the showy Yevtushenko and as a reticent as the tragic Akhmatova. Kirkus admired Reeve's understated tone and wondered at the dissonance between public perception of the Soviet terror and this bubbly chronicle, ‘upbeat in spirit and notational in approach.' A must, in any case, for Frost fans.
—Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2001
F.D. Reeve (www.fdreeve.org/) is a professor of Russian in the College of Letters at Wesleyan University. Reeve is the author of dozens of translations and books of literary criticism, including Concrete Music (Pyncheon House, 1992), and most recently Moon & Other Failures (Michigan State University Press, 1999). He is the recipient of the Golden Rose for lifelong poetic achievement.
THROUGH THE IMMIGRANT STREETS OF BROOKLYN
Set in the immigrant streets and tenements of Brooklyn, Jack Pulaski's stories sparkle with incident, character, memory, and a touch of the surreal. In “Religious Instruction,” a widowed scripture teacher channels her passion into a retelling of the primal stories of the bible that transfixes her adolescent students: “When she marries again we will not hear these stories, not the same way.” “Music Story” sketches a chilling portrait of urban ethnic territoriality, while in “Father of the Bride,” a young Jew pursues the skeptical, profane and eccentric Carlos, seeking his daughter's hand.
Jack Pulaski has his turf, and the talent to work it.
Get the book and read it. And then shower copies on everyone you know who still enjoys moving his or her eyes from left to right.
Mr. Pulaski has a gift for combining the lyrical with the earthy
—Diane Cole, New York Times Book Review
The stories may be about a berserk merry-go-round, an erotic Sunday school teacher, a dance band of hip Jews disguised as Italians so they can play the St. Veronica's Gig, or a pure-hearted girl in the confessional. Whatever, and whoever, the stories capture all the life there is in beautiful and surprising forms.
—James Hazard, The Milwaukee Journal
Jack Pulaski writes convincingly about so many different cultures it is hard to pigeonhole him. Readers will have a hard time finding a greater variety of characters in a collection of short stories.
—Jim Spencer, Chicago Tribune
These eight connected pieces conjure the world of Russian, Polish, Italian and Caribbean immigrants in New York tenements in the 1940s and '50s. The writing is dense, sensual, often hilarious and entirely confident; the characters are real, with sights, sounds and smells crowding the page.
—Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
The minds, the glittering personalities and eccentrics of Berkeley and San Francisco come to life in these two novels by poet Philip Whalen. Set in the late Fifties and early Sixties, You Didn't Even Try and Imaginary Speeches for a Brazen Head provide a remarkable window on the nascence of a counterculture.
Whalen's poems are now classics but all too few readers know the equal power of his prose.
In this searing novel of family, grief, and memory, a Canadian Jewish family is flung back together by the loss of one of its members at the hands of a drunken driver. The bereaved must now strive to keep alive the memory of Esther Persky—sister, wife and mother.
The author brings us so completely into her characters' lives that we cannot help but care about every occurrence.
A Chagall painting brought to life, the novel traces the episodic journey of an orphaned 18th-century cobbler in search of the legendary Jewish rabbi and miracle worker, the Baal Shem Tov.
Painter-storyteller Ari's [http://arifiles.com/] novel is a true original, with roots in Jewish mysticism and Yiddish folklore…extravagant, charming, and deeply serious in its matter-of-fact mingling of moral history, prophecy and magic.