“It’s a very sad tale about a sad time, but out of sadness comes an extraordinary beauty, and this is what I wanted to write about: the beauty that came out of all the pain.”
“The word is far more real than the world”: Jerome Charyn rejoins the show to celebrate his new novel, RAVAGE & SON (Bellevue Literary Press), a fantastic noir about the Lower East Side in 1913. We talk about his love for the LES and the Bintel Briefs in The Forward, why he wanted to write a Jewish Jekyll & Hyde story, and how adopting a cat changed the course of this amazing novel. We also get into life on the page, the music of the sentence, and the self-revelation of writing, why so many of his characters attend Harvard, the holiness of books and why he reads so little of others’ books nowadays, treating writing as an apprenticeship rather than a career, and how he got overwhelmed for a year after writing in Abe Lincoln’s voice. Plus we discuss his reverence of Joyce Carol Oates and Cormac McCarthy (and ambivalence toward Henry James, who makes an appearance in Ravage & Son), the reason so many of his characters attend Harvard, the sense of being transported by the ballet performances of Allegra Kent, how it felt to write a character who’s in love with destruction, why gender fluidity is essential to human nature, and the one advantage to living long enough: understanding that nothing remains and everything disappears. Give it a listen! And go read RAVAGE & SON!
“I have the same pleasure now that I had when I started writing 55 or 60 years ago.”
“Music, to me, is the essential word. You shape the sentences around the music.”
“You can’t divorce the writer from the text; the writer is embedded in the text.”
“There’s always the book that you should have written, but never wrote.”
About our Guest
Jerome Charyn is the author of more than fifty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Ravage & Son; Sergeant Salinger; Cesare: A Novel of War-Torn Berlin; In the Shadow of King Saul: Essays on Silence and Song; Jerzy: A Novel; and A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century. Among other honors, his work has been longlisted for the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award and PEN Award for Biography, shortlisted for the Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award, and selected as a finalist for the Firecracker Award and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Charyn has also been named a Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture and received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Jerome’s apartment on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Casual photos of Jerome & Chloe the cat by me. Moody photo by Philippe Matsas. It’s on my instagram.