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I’m not ashamed to admit I was born in Orange, NJ–the original of the four Oranges–founded by a bunch of Puritans who were unhappy with what the deal they were getting farther north on the Passaic River in New Ark (Newark). Home of the “Orange Nighstick,” a.k.a. Two-Ton Tony Galento, who never won a world title but did a lot of damage in his heavyweight career and managed–with a wicked left hook–to land boxing legend Joe Louis on his ass. Oh, yeah, and Roy Scheider’s another Orange boy. After I made it out of Orange and East Orange and suburban Wanaque, I spent four years at Rutgers, New Brunswick, studying literature, and although I went on to get a an MA in comparative lit from Columbia University, I still consider myself a Jersey boy.
I spent three years at the North Jersey Herald News in Passaic, NJ, as copyeditor, book reviewer, and feature writer. It was the best job I ever had. I gave it up somehow thinking I could make a living off fiction. As Ben Franklin said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”
Boy did I learn.
But there have been some small victories. In 1991 I won a $5,000 fellowship from the NJ Council on the Arts for excellence in fiction and spent most of it on a 1983 280ZX with a t-roof. It was the last year they made the 280, and I really miss that car. In 1994 I pulled down another $5,000 fellowship from the NJ Council on the Arts but can’t remember where the money went–bills I guess. The same year I won the Faulkner Prize for Short Fiction (the honorably Allan Gurganus judging). My collection of short stories, Adrift in a Vanishing City, was released in 1998 (still on Amazon! Only $3.99! Makes a great Xmas gift!). I spent almost nine years (if you add them all up) living in Istanbul, Turkey, where I freelanced and taught English at several universities. “The Moon has Fallen into a Well” was published in the winter 2009 issue of Shenandoah and was translated into Turkish and anthologized in Istanbul’da Kan Var (There is Blood in Istanbul). ”The Three Veils of Ibn Oraybi” (reviewed by New Pages.com) appeared in AGNI 64 in 2006. ”Arif’s Refusal to Bargain” was published by the Massachusetts Review in spring 2005 (Vol. XLVI, No. 1), whose very kind editors which nominated the story for a Pushcart Prize. “The Gypsy Charm” was published by Louisiana Literature in 2011, which turned out to be a good year: “Old Man Evil” was published by Southern Indiana Review and “The Nameless Saint” appeared in the summer issue of Camera Obscura. And in March 2013 “Moon of Drunken Mists” is set to appear in Wasafiri, an international journal of contemporary literature based in London.
As an author of fiction, I’m always reading both my contemporaries and my predecessors, and admit to belonging to an old school, the Rilkelytes, who look for sentences and paragraphs, images and metaphors of arresting beauty (or striking grotesqueness), whose teeth are set on edge by the stock or overused phrase, who expect reading to be as visceral an experience as a purgative heave after an ear-ringing night of Country Western music and beers at Bootleggers’ Bar & Grill. Who expect to be provoked into thinking, into rethinking, suckered into a paradigm shift here or there, suddenly look up and find, after all these books, we’re finally no closer to grokking the mystery we live at the core of but at least we know we’re standin in the right place to go on bein astonished by it all, to go on grokkin and readin a few more books. Contemporary favorites include William Gaddis’s ‘The Recognitions’, Julio Cortazar’s ‘Hopscotch’, Samuel R. Delany’s ‘Dhalgren’ and Paul West’s ‘The Place in Flowers Where Pollen Rests’. All-time favorites include ‘Hamlet’, ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘Moby-Dick’ and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’
My essays, features, and reviews have shown up in Sports Illustrated, the Boston Review, AGNI, Poets & Writers, New Millennium Writings, Logos Journal On-Line, the Columbus Dispatch, West Branch, The American Book Review, and Rain Taxi. I was also a regular contributor to the arts page posted by WBUR (the Boston division of NPR) until NPR shut down their own arts pages. You can now find me fairly regularly on The Arts Fuse, a very cool website to which I’ll soon provide the link.