The Luckiest Interns

One of the three interns invited to share in Edith Pearlman’s success at the National Book Awards this year, Arianne Beros wrote a featured article for Wilmington’s Star News.

Once we were settled in her office, Emily took a deep breath, pressed her hands together, and said, “We’re taking you with us to the National Book Awards ceremony.”

We were so stunned that no one spoke for a few seconds. What an incredible, unexpected opportunity.

Read the entire article here!

Today’s Binocular Vision excerpt from “Self-Reliance”

Sipping, not thinking, she drifted on a cobalt disk under an aquamarine dome. Birches bent to honor her, tall pines guarded the birches. She looked down the length of her body. She had not worn rubber boat shoes, only sandals, and her ten toenails winked flamingo.

The spring was in the middle of the roughly circular pond. Usually a boat given its freedom headed in that direction. Today, however, the canoe was obeying some private instructions. It had turned eastward; the lowering sun at her back further brightened her toenails. Her craft was headed toward the densely wooded stretch of shore where there were no houses. It was picking up speed. Cornelia considered shaking herself out of her lethargy, lifting the paddle, resuming control; but instead she watched the prow make its confident way toward trees and moist earth. It would never attain the shore, though, because there seemed to be a gulf between pond and land. No one had ever remarked on this cleavage. Perhaps it had only recently appeared, a fault developing in the last week or two; perhaps the land had receded from the pond or the pond recoiled from the land; at any rate, there it was: fissure, cleft…falls.

Continue Reading
 

Today’s Binocular Vision excerpt from “Lineage”

“There was a ravine where crystal water bubbled. On a branch hung a funnel-shaped ladle made of birch. They drank the cold fresh water. They walked along a winding path to an unused hunting lodge. They spoke of Dickens, of Dürer … favorite topics of well-bred Russians. In the late-afternoon sun the air was full of amber droplets, and everything was as if bathed in warm tea—the trees, the wet lane, even the faces of the two people who had not yet touched one another. This is the Russian spring.

“My mother’s eyes were hazel and her teeth were widely spaced. Her skin was freckled, her curly hair light brown. As a member of the household, she had seen that Nicholas was prodded and worried by the adored empress and the detested monk. She pitied the Little Father. She was not raped that afternoon, not seduced; seigneurial right was not exercised. She collaborated in her own deflowering. His hands were gentle. His eyes were the brown of a thrush, and his beard too. There was only a little pain. There was extreme sweetness.

“And then came an extraordinary moment. She looked up, into his brown gaze, and she saw his murder, the murder that would take place five years later, in July.

Continue Reading
 

Today’s Binocular Vision excerpt from “Capers”

Dorothy had dropped his arm. She was lingering at the doorway of Silk: scarves, shawls, handkerchiefs, even gloves, even belts. She floated in. “Are your worms kept in humane conditions?” she asked the saleswoman.

“Madame?”

“I’d like so much to see the scarf in the window, the one where blues shade into one another—yes, that one,” and the saleswoman cupped the item in her hands as if it were a baby and then laid it on the glass case as if it were a baby’s blanket. She from her side and Dorothy from hers marveled at the colors of the chiffon. The woman seemed sincere, but of course she could not feel the power of the blues, the way they called forth Dorothy’s seemly life: the ink of the river at night seen from under a canoe, the ocean’s mauve at sundown; the blue-green of shore reeds, the silver of spray. The brightness of Henry’s young eyes and the cloudiness of his aged ones. The printed morphos on their granddaughters’ pajamas. Her bridesmaids’ gowns had been robin’s egg blue; here was that shade repeated exactly in this fluid fabric. Here were the veins on her hands. Here was the sapphire of the Paris sky at evening. Here was the blue-purple shadow of one statue’s head on another’s paler back in that storage room at the top of the art museum. Here was the cobalt ring of the glaucoma probe. Here was the blue-gray ash that covered the nickel in her pocket. Last was the lilac of her bedroom at dawn.

“How much?” said Henry from the doorway.

Continue Reading
 

Today’s Binocular Vision excerpt from “Granski”

The ride home was shorter than the ride there—an eternal truth of the space-time continuum, Toby had once pointed out. Angelica and her grandmother went into the kitchen and sat down at the oak table. Gran turned off the lamp and lit a cigarette. Angelica handed Gran the keys, which caught the dull light from the window. The shadowy room slowly revealed its known treasures—pewter in a cupboard, the old stove with its cobalt pilot, some revolutionary’s portrait, several upended brooms flaring from an umbrella holder.

“All in all,” Gran said without preamble, “a continued liaison would be a great deal of trouble. For you, for him, for all of us. Your great-grandfather didn’t rescue his line so it could get tangled up with itself like rotten old lace, like some altar cloth from Antwerp. I suppose I mean Bruges.”

“Bruges, yes.” Angelica swallowed. “You are part of the lace now.”

“Not noticeably,” Gran said. “The Larcom influence has not made itself felt.”

Continue Reading
 

Today’s Binocular Vision excerpt from “The Story”

Lucienne would tell the story tonight, Harry thought.

She would tell the story soon. The da Costas had never heard it. She had been waiting, as she always did, for the quiet moment, the calm place, the inviting question, and the turning point in a growing intimacy.

Harry had heard the story scores of times. He had heard it in Yiddish and in French and occasionally in Spanish. Mostly, though, she told it in her lightly accented English.

Whatever language she employed, the nouns were unadorned, the syntax plain, the vocabulary undemanding: not a word that couldn’t be understood by children, though she never told the story to children, unless you counted Miriam.

He could tell the thing himself, in any of her tongues.

I was four. The Nazis had taken over. We were desperate to escape.

My father went out every morning—to stand in line at one place or another, to try to pay the right person.

That morning—he took my brother with him. My brother was twelve. They went to one office and were on their way to a second. Soldiers in helmets grabbed my father. My brother saw the truck then, and the people on it, crying. The soldiers pushed my father toward the truck. “And your son, too.” One of them took my brother by the sleeve of his coat.

Continue Reading
 

Today’s Binocular Vision excerpt from “Purim Night”

By the time Roland and Sonya arrived at the great hall—a big room with a little stage—the thrown-together orchestra was playing: strings, one trumpet, woodwinds, an accordion, a balalaika, three guitars, one drum. Candles in tin cans were burning side by side on the rim of the stage and on a ledge around the room and at the windows. Each thick candle, Sonya noticed, was made up of a clutch of little, twisted candles, the Chanukah kind. There were also several chanukkiyahs. A broad table held a mountain of hamantaschen. Another table sagged under bowls of liquid. “Let’s hope no one got hold of the methanol,” Roland said. At another camp, mostly Polish Persons, two men had gone blind from drinking the stuff.

Roland was dressed, he claimed, as Dionysius—that is, two sprigs of juniper were pinned to his scant hair, one falling onto his forehead, the other nestling within his humble nape.

Continue Reading
 

Today’s Binocular Vision excerpt from “Chance”

“Oh God of our fathers,” the cantor began. His plummy voice broke. “God,” he began again, and this time he kept talking, though his face glistened like glass. “We of Congregation Beth Shalom accept this sacred scroll, the only remnant of Your worshippers of the village of Slavkov, whose every inhabitant perished in Majdanek. Whenever we read from this Torah we will think of our vanished brothers and sisters and their dear children. God, may we be worthy of this inheritance.”

He began a Hebrew prayer, which I might have followed, but I was thinking of what I’d learned in confirmation class about the village of Slavkov. Its Jews were artisans and peddlers and money lenders. Some of them read the Holy Books all day long in the House of Study. Then I thought about things I only guessed: some of them drank too much and others coveted their neighbor’s silver and one or two of them lay with peasant women. A few little boys plotted to set their cheder on fire. On Sunday nights a group of men gathered in a storefront, putting troubles aside for a few hours, consulting the wise numeracy of a pack of cards.

The cantor ended his prayer. He handed the scroll to the rabbi. The rabbi held it vertically in his arms. He turned toward the ark. The president of the congregation opened the ark. The rabbi placed the Czech Torah beside our everyday one.

Continue Reading
 

Introducing daily Binocular Vision excerpts

In honor of Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision being named a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction, we’re offering a taste of her stories. Every weekday morning between now and November 16, the day of the ceremony, we’ll post an excerpt from her collection to the blog. Enjoy!

From “If Love Were All”

The children came, wave after wave of them. Polish children, Austrian children, Hungarian children, German children. Some came like parcels bought from the governments that withheld passports from their parents. These children wore coats, and each carried a satchel. Some came in unruly bands, having lived like squirrels in the mountains or like rats by the rivers. Some came escorted by social workers who couldn’t wait to get rid of them. Few understood English. Some knew only Yiddish. Some had infectious diseases. Some seemed feebleminded, but it turned out that they had been only temporarily enfeebled by hardship.

They slept for a night or two in a seedy hotel near Waterloo station. Sonya and Mrs. Levinger, who directed the agency, stayed in the hotel, too, intending to sleep—they were always tired, for the bombing had begun. But the women failed to sleep, for the children—not crying; they rarely cried—wandered through the halls, or hid in closets, smoking cigarettes, or went up and down the lift. The next day, or the next day but one, Sonya and Mrs. Levinger escorted them to their quarters in the countryside, and deposited them with stout farm families, these Viennese who had never seen a cow; or left them in hastily assembled orphanages staffed with elderly schoolteachers, these Berliners who had known only the tender hands of nursemaids; or stashed them in a bishop’s palace, these Polish children for whom Christians were the devil; the Viennese kids might have found the palace suitable; the Hungarians would have formed a vigorous troupe within the orphanage; the little Poles, familiar with chickens, might have become comfortable on the farms. But the billets rarely matched the children. The organization took what it could get. After the children were settled, however uneasily, Sonya and Mrs. Levinger rode the train back to London, Mrs. Levinger returning to her husband and Sonya to solitude.

Excerpted from “If Love Were All” from Binocular Vision: New & Selected StoriesCopyright © 2011 by Edith Pearlman. Used by permission of Lookout Books, an imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

 

Edith Pearlman receives 24th PEN/Malamud Award

Washington, DC––Edith Pearlman has been selected to receive the 24th annual PEN/Malamud Award. Given annually since 1988 in honor of the late Bernard Malamud, this award recognizes a body of work that demonstrates excellence in the art of short fiction. The announcement was made today by the directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, Robert Stone and Susan Richards Shreve, Co-Chairs.

“Bernard Malamud expressed the hope that ‘expert practitioners of the short story, especially those who come rarely if ever to the novel, will be recognized’ so that their work might be ‘brought emphatically to public attention.’ With this prize, we hope to bring exactly such long-deserved attention emphatically to Ms. Pearlman’s beautifully crafted and deeply moving short fiction,” said Deborah Tannen, chair of the Malamud Award Selection Committee.

Edith Pearlman has published more than 250 works of short fiction and short non-fiction in national magazines, literary journals, anthologies, and on-line publications. Her work has appeared in Best American Short StoriesThe O. Henry Prize Collection,New Stories from the South, and The Pushcart Prize Collection Best of the Small Presses.

Continue Reading