Reading Leonard Michaels

In my latest column for the Jerusalem Post, I examine the work of Leonard Michaels, whose collected stories were recently published by FSG.

Fans of Michaels often lament the fact that he is so much less-known than his Jewish-American writer peers, like Philip Roth and Grace Paley.

When David Bezmozgis, for example, was on a publicity tour for his wonderful story collection Natasha, he took it upon himself to spread the Gospel of Michaels, as well.

When my book was published in the spring of 2004, a year after Lenny’s death, I felt his absence intensely. As I traveled to promote my book, I felt a strong obligation to speak about him and the influence he’d had on me. It seemed improper that my work should command attention – however minimal – while his was allowed to languish. I saw myself, somewhat presumptuously and hubristically, as righting a wrong, waging a campaign to resurrect Lenny’s literary reputation. (MORE)

But Michaels’ lack of literary fame makes sense to a certain extent. Michaels was a master story writer who in many ways was quite traditional, but he could also be experimental, edgy, and self-consciously intellectual. He was a real literary artist, which explains why so many writers admire his work.


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