About authorpaulafriedman

Author of The Rescuer's Path (2012, PVP), a novel of love, courage, and family in the antiwar movement. Author of Time and Other Details (2006, Highlights Press), a selection of award-winning poetry on history, life, and other ephemera. Author of numerous stories and poems published in literary and other journals and anthologies. Freelance editor for university and trade presses. Former director, Rosenberg Award for Poems on the Jewish Experience. Founding editor/facilitator, The Open Cell literary magazine/collective. Former newspaper reporter, museum public relations director, gallery readings director, etc. MFA, San Francisco State U.; MLS, U.C. Berkeley; BA, Cornell U.

Finding oneself in the late-1960s antiwar movement

With the Occupies and the growing third-party movements as elections near, this year, we are reminded of the days of hope, the time we call “the Sixties.” For many of us, this time was primarily, or crescendoed in, 1965 to 1969 or so. My essay “God’s Eyes,” originally published in 1994 in Viet Nam Generation under the title “You asked ‘What was happening then?'” received a Pushcart Prize nomination and, in 1996, honorable mention for the first New Millenium Writings nonfiction award. “God’s Eyes” is written as if speaking to my first child, given up for adoption and who had, as an adult in the early 1990s found me. “God’s Eyes” tells of discovering, through love, pregnancy, and a nonviolent demonstration in the antiwar movement, my self–my depths, and that I loved, and that we can each love and struggle for a more loving society.

“God’sEyes” tells us that we found, in those days of hope, ways to recognize the love in everyone, in self and others, and to reach through to this love to create a better society. We still can, really.

Find it here– http://www.highlightscommunications.com/gods_eyes_sample.htm

Remembering the Cuban Crisis

  • I was fresh out of college, new to Berkeley. The woman in the next apartment had her radio on that evening and invited me in to hear Kennedy’s speech; people commented how well-phrased it was. The rain, that night and the next day, was that gray-silver cloud that descends when we don’t know if life is soon over. I remember walking up Telegraph that afternoon and buying a lighter and raincoat in the dimestore, after phoning friends to find someone with a car and others who were ready so we could flee. On the campus, some of us met and were having coffee when a siren went off.

    A minute later, we heard the siren moving and realized it was only a fire truck, and breathed again. Later, there was a corner rally and Bill Mandel said “Look, I’m middle-aged, for me maybe it’s all right, but you people are still young! You need your lives,” and Marvin Garson invited everyone to that evening’s End of the World party.

    In the Bassens’ apartment, three of us discussed fleeing and timing; Stephanie phoned the Chronicle. Stephanie: “What time will the Polish ships reach the (US ships’) blockade?” Reporter: “Lady, if I knew that, I’d be in the State Department.”

    In the morning, on little sleep, four of us–Eli and his girlfriend, and Gene, and I–drove up 101 in Gene’s car, which had uncertain brakes. Near Willetts, we camped, buying “good steaks for a barbeque” in a small-town grocery; “They probably think we’re the only people not worried,” Gene or Eli said.

    By the next afternoon, we were heading back, and stopped in Mendocino–my first trip there. I and one of the guys were feeling very embarrassed or ashamed to have run in fear from a fate that all of us around, all of us in the world, might now confront.

    We climbed on the bluffs above the ocean, nearly slipping a couple of times onto the rocks and ocean below. We stopped in a bookstore and I bought a copy of the journal Daedalus, and then we sat on the grass above the town for awhile. I was reading the Daedalus, and there was an article by Bettelheim about surviving the concentration camps, and in it he said, “In this situation” (where one’s life, and everyone around’s, was being threatened, by people who’d no concern for human life), “even to survive was, itself, to fight back.”
    In the evening, we returned to Berkeley. While we were away, the ships had met and the Polish ships pulled back. But the crisis continued until the agreement, that Saturday, and (it has since been learned) for some weeks thereafter. And, as my friend Harvey said, sometime that December, the biggest danger was in the week before the announcement, when the administration had been determining whether to try a blockade or an attack.
    Copyright  2012 by Paula Friedman. All rights reserved, including all print and electronic media.

In recent novel, young antiwar lovers flee police to wilderness

The recent page-turning novel The Rescuer’s Path recounts a tale of lovers struggling against an unjust, war-making society.

The Rescuer’s Path is the tale of a Holocaust survivor’s young daughter who, in Nixon-era Washington DC, discovers and aids a wounded fugitive, a half-Arab antiwar activist suspected of the lethal bombing of a US Army truck. Overcoming their fear and distrust, the two young people become friends and  flee cross-country, pursued by an implacable FBI. In the Rocky Mountain wilderness, they learn each other’s depths of love and  courage. But their pursuers close in, in tragic confrontation.

Three decades later, in the shades of 9/11, the young couple’s daughter, raised adopted, seeks out the truth of her origins.

Ursula K. Le Guin calls The Rescuer’s Path “Exciting, physically vivid, and romantic.” Small Press Review terms this novel “Lyrically written, the characters vividly drawn, the story captivating.” Flannery O’Connor Award–winning author Carole L. Glickfeld says “I could not stop reading this novel–I loved it.” Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and Torch, notes, “Vivid, humane, and wise, The Rescuer’s Path held me from its first page to its last.” “A story of what it means to do the right thing,” says novelist Heather Sharfeddin; “These characters will break your heart and put it back together again.”

The Rescuer’s Path (2012, Plain View Press, trade pb., 200pp., $15.95) is available through http://www.amazon.com, http://www.plainviewpress.net, and many online bookstores, and by order through your local bookstore (distributed by Ingram).

Contact paula@paula-friedman.com to arrange a reading and/or signing for your reading group or organization.

Best Short Fiction and Novellas

Today’s list contains an unpredetermined number of short stories, short-short/flash fiction, and novellas. They are not ranked here. (N) indicates a novella.

The Facts around the Helsinki Rocaccios (N). Yann Martel’s novella recounts a friendship “to death do us part,” and invokes a heroic creativity around this concept.

The Ambitious Guest. In this simple classic, Nathanial Hawthorne evokes all those existential questions that, for many other authors, require tomes. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, be it noted, was Hemingway’s attempt at same.

Terminal. In this very short story, Nadine Gordimer delves love’s confrontation with the impossible.

Tell Me a Riddle (N). Tillie Olsen explores a marriage, a time and its politics, the  interweaving of political struggle with ordinary human compassion, a dying woman’s search for meanings, and the real stuff of love. Read this.

I Stand Here Ironing. In these five pages, Olsen brings us into the heart of a mother raising a child against all odds–and learning what human freedom means.

The Long Way Out. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s eloquent “frame” story, we are immersed in a doctor’s account of a young mother’s inability to accept her husband’s death on the day he was to bring her home.

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Ursula K. Le Guin’s tale of the citizens of a near-perfect society built on the sufferings of a single child invites comparison with Dostoevski’s Grand Inquisitor scene. Le Guin’s The Day before the Revolution and her The Shobies are no slouches, either.

The Metamorphosis (N). “One morning Gregor Samsa woke from a night of troubled dreams to discover he had been turned into a giant insect.” Thus begins the most famous and unforgettable of Franz Kafka’s uniquely voiced tales.

Toga Party. Yeah. Usually I don’t go for John Updike’s works, but this one is a classic. Like several others here, it invokes the matter of confronting death–in this case, in the world of suburbia. The story is very well done.

Tlon, Uqbar, [and I forget the other two names] (N). Jorge Borges’s narrator tracks the mysterious manuscripts and artifacts of Tlon [or is it Uqbar?] through the maze of their mental metamorphoses, in this elegant, illuminating exploration (presuming it exists). We may note that this story generated, among innumerable other works, Paula Friedman’s short story Urr. . . , in which a physics-defying spaceship finds (“finds”) the planet Urrrr. . ., “whatever it may be,” whose inhabitants have–and use–an arithmetic entirely (and so, dangerously) different from our own.

The Prayer. This very short story envelopes us in the three voices–everyday, fantasy, and prayer–of a socially isolated, imaginative teenager struggling to emerge from a world of Cold War post-Holocaust banalities. Author is Paula Friedman.

The following four long novellas are definitely classic “bests.”

Notes from Underground (N). Self-doubts,universal questions, frustrations, and sorrows threaten to drown this hero in wonderfully complex, sometimes self-referential, brilliant prose. Fyodor Dostoevsky.

White Nights (N). Doestoevsky tells of the lost love that obsesses and leads the narrator through the long, white Russian nights.

[Title forgotten. (N).] Par Lagerkvist. This is the tale of an overarching love–a simple account of a man and woman who meet, fall in love, overcome obstacles, have and love a baby more than one might have thought possible, and learn what love and loss can mean. A sort of “opposite” is Lagerkvist’s (title novella in) The Eternal Smile, with its millenia of multitudes of dead human souls recalling (through the concepts of) their lives during their quite separated historic and prehistoric epochs.

Heart of Darkness. You know–“Mistah Kurtz, he dead.” Joseph Conrad.

Very good. We now have 10+ “bests” by, mostly, well-known authors, and one or two of my own. And a  few extras. Enjoy them all; every one of these short (and longer) fictions is worth reading, and most are unforgettable. But what are your candidates for Best Short Story, Best Flash (short-short) Fiction, Best Novella? And if you like short-short science-fiction, check out the science fiction microstory contest on LinkedIn. Its anthology will come out this winter.

Single Mother, Birth Mother–Share Your Experience

I am both the reunited first mother of my older son and the former Welfare mother of my younger son. Reading recently of the hardships confronting a new single mother, I remember how hard it is, the decision we each confront to raise or yield our beloved newborns. I know how the loss of our babies to adoption tears us apart, yet how, alternatively, social oppressions may crush upon our children, to whatever extent we cannot hold oppression off, if we raise our kids alone.

Halfway through my novel The Rescuer’s Path, a middle-aged woman who had relinquished her baby to adoption long before, and the twenty-something woman who’d been that baby, struggle through hope and loss toward reunion. Their thoughts and fear, hope and joy reflect the hole in time, the sense of not-there–of a would-have-been world–that pervades adoption. I’ve written about this before–in the online collection Poems of Adoption, in my “Reunion” essay in the anthology Touched by Adoption (2000, Green River), and elsewhere.

But only twice did my poetry or prose evoke what it is to raise a child alone, on Welfare, with no social supports. First, in “You!”–a brutally honest poem, winner of a 2005 Oregon State Poetry Association Award; second, in a nearly published memoir, The Baby Book.

If you have lived the experience, you know. Even to glance into blogs, fb sites, listserves, or printed books that deal with mothers trying to raise whole a newborn alone, or to let go a beautiful new child into another family’s world–reopens this never-healed wound. You will remember, you will recall. You will recall the love, the fear for this miracle child, the vulnerability.

If you have been/are such a mother, please post (up to 100 words). We all need to hear these accounts, to share what we have felt and learned.

Deering the Unknown, Blogging the Books

After reading at the warm and wondrous Wy’East Book Shoppe in Welches (Oregon) on Mount Hood last weekend, I started driving home in the dusk and hit a deer. I am fine, the car will be fine, and the deer–? Dunno; it’s mountain lion territory there. Meanwhile, today the elegant Indies Unlimited brought out its sneak peek of The Rescuer’s Path, my recent novel that recounts both the 1971 love affair between a Holocaust survivor’s daughter and a fugitive Arab-American antiwar activist suspected of the bombing of an army truck, and the 2001 search of their birth daughter for the truth of her origins–  http://wp.me/p1WnN1-4Yc

Reading and Booksigning in Welches, on Mount Hood, June 15

Come join us for my reading from The Rescuer’s Path in Welches, OR, June 15, 2012, 7:30 pm, Wy’East Book Shoppe and Art Gallery, in the woodsy mall at Highway 26 one block west of the Welches traffic light.

This is a wonderful, friendly, welcoming, and well-stocked bookstore that also often features superb pieces by local arts and crafts persons.

The Rescuer’s Path is the tale of a Holocaust survivor’s daughter who, in Nixon-era Washington DC, finds, aids, and comes to love a half-Arab antiwar leader suspected by the FBI in a lethal truck-bombing. It is the story of their tragic love and of the search by their birth daughter, amid the shadows of 9/11, for the truth of her origins.

Ursula K. Le Guin calls this novel “exciting, physically vivid, and romantic.” Acclaimed novelist Cheryl Strayed says “The Rescuer’s Path held me from the first page to the last.” Flannery O’Connor Award–winner Carole L. Glickfeld says “I could not stop reading this novel–I love it.” Small Press Review says “The writing is lyrical and poetic, the characters vivid, and the story captivating.” FirstMotherForum calls The Rescuer’s Path “a compelling story with universal themes of love and loss, separation and reconciliation.”

“These characters will break your heart and put it back together again,” notes Portland author Heather Sharfeddin. Berkeley activist/songwriter Carol Denney says “This is the book you can’t put down, the people you will remember, the vibrant story we all share.”  This novel demands we ask, notes the Jewish Transcript (JT) News, “How do we make peace, in ourselves and in the world?”

Come hear the reading, ask questions of the author, and perhaps purchase a signed copy of The Rescuer’s Path (2012, Plain View, $15.95).

Questions about this event? For more information: http://www.wyeastonline.com/event/meet-author-book-signing-paula-freidman-author-rescuers-path

Authors among Us–Reading in White Salmon, WA, May 12

Authors among Us

A reading and booksigning by authors Paula Friedman, Miralee Ferrell, and Sheila Simonson
May 12, 2012, 2 pm, White Salmon Valley Community Library, 77 NE Wauna Avenue, White Salmon, WA

Come listen and enjoy! I’ll be reading from my new novel The Rescuer’s Path, about the tragic love between a young Jewish woman and an Arab-American peace activist pursued by the FBI. Sheila and Miralee will read from their books, too. Plenty of time for Q&A and discussion afterward, and signed book copies will be available–all in the library’s beautiful Sprint/Baker Gallery. Come spend a great afternoon in the scenic Columbia River Gorge region east of Portland, OR.

Listing in spring — “10 best” fiction volumes

It’s either list the 10 best volumes of fiction of all time–or rather, my 10 favorites–or post again about how most novels of any originality get systematically swamped by the “star system” megacorporate culture (more accurately, “culture”) in, especially, the United States.

So, we say, Occupy. But one needs sometimes a break. Therefore, now, as promised back in January, here are the “10 best novels (and other fiction volumes) of all time,” or at least in my opinion.

  1. Crime and Punishment. There is no question; you are there with Raskolnikov, horrified of a sudden to have forgot so obvious a risk as the hat, the strikingly noticeable hat, you realize you’re still wearing–and recognizing, as more and more you shall, that in your striving for criminal perfection you are increasingly vulnerable and your philosophical truths open to question. And for the next week in St. Petersburg, the next hours or days until you the reader come to the end of this novel, you are Raskolnikov. The novel has flaws; neither Svidrigailov nor, especially, Porfiry is quite real; each is too much a reflection of or foil for Raskolnikov (and there are other flaws). But it has Raskolnikov. And Sonia. And Katerina Ivanovna making the children dance to “show [the rich] what children like these have come to.” It remains the novel against which all others must be measured.
  2. A la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past)–which is really seven volumes, but let’s count them as one. Proust’s masterpiece is masterful indeed. Often shocking in its honesty, it’s sometimes terribly moving and sometimes hysterically funny. And a beautifully accurate evocation of Parisian moeurs (and not just those of the turn of the 20th century either!). Read it in the French; it’s even better. (Note: here and throughout, apologies for my errors in French spelling, prepositions, or etc.)
  3. Les liaisons dangereuses. De la Clos’s elegant study of love and power, games and real emotions, retains both the wit and the feeling that it had in the early nineteenth century. Again, best in the original and gracefully written French, but there are excellent translations too.
  4. Tell Me a Riddle. Of these three short stories and one novella by Tillie Olsen, two pieces are unforgettable. It is impossible to read the 5-page story “I Stand Here Ironing” without crying–if, anyway, you are a daughter or a mother. And the title novella delves life, love, loss, politics, family, mortality, and what we may call the “meaning of life” in a way that, reading, one knows makes this work great.
  5. This is an extra but who’s writing this list, eh? The Rescuer’s Path. This novel, by Paula Friedman, indeed also “delves life, love, loss, politics, family, mortality, and what we may call the ‘meaning of life.'” It makes some readers cry, and some call it unforgettable. Small Press Review, Ursula Le Guin, Cheryl Strayed, Carole Glickfeld, JTNews, Jewish Observer, and many other fine authorities praise it highly.  Read it; enjoy it; you will remember it.
  6. Victory. Probably Conrad’s best. Or you may prefer Lord Jim. It’s Lord Jim that has the great line “He had jumped.” It’s Victory that has the great line “Judge you? I would have to judge the universe.” Lord Jim is about guilt and courage and trying to undo; it is about identity and becoming. Victory is, as my tenth-grade English teacher said, “all about love.” It is about giving everything.
  7. The Diviners. Canadian author Margaret Laurence’s great novel of the lifelong love between an impoverished girl who becomes a success, and the metis outcast and folksong writer/singer who is, at the start, her childhood friend. It’s a tale about class and prejudice, about acceptance and commitment, about decisions and the  divining of life for what it is. It’s a very adult tale of life and years. You will not be sorry you read it. (Maybe this should be number 6.)
  8. And actually this should be no. 2. Kristin Lavransdatter. Sigrid Undset won the 1928 Nobel Prize for this trilogy. The three volumes cover the 50 or so years of the heroine’s life, in 14th-century Norway. Undset, in this and an earlier novel based a couple of centuries earlier, worked out a language usage to give a period sense without being archaic; as subsequently with Tolkien, the work involved created an unforgettable linguistic triumph. But what stands out most is Kristin’s conflicting thoughts and longings–her religious devotion and her love for home and father, versus her desire for the dashing Erlend and her commitment to the children and life they build together. The intensity of Kristin’s mental life, the swift sweep of her changes from doubts to acceptances, from duty to longings, from the way of the world to the way of the cross–and back again, with many variations over many times–is only matched by the intensity of Raskolnikov’s persona. And here, instead of 19th-century St. Petersburg, we have the late-medieval world of the first half of the 14th century (hah–and I just gave away a major plot element). Life, love, conflict, history, a recreation of the period’s religious life–this is a book to live within.
  9. You have your choice–Borges’s Labyrinths, Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Kafka, or any volume of Poe’s short fiction.
  10. You’re probably expecting War and Peace or Anna Karenina, and maybe you’ll get one. Because Anna Karenina, which is really about Levin’s questionings and marriage, has the wonderful near-end section where Tolstoy has Levin suddenly realize that (his) life is actually . . . .  And this sudden recognition works. Works very well–even though every course in writing or literature you ever take says this can’t work. A more recent book, for which its author received a Macarthur grant, The Mind-Body Problem (and we know where Rebecca Goldstein got that title for her novel, don’t we?), does the same thing–makes a sudden final realization work, swelling and closing the plotline beautifully, enobling the narrator, and–hey wow, showing that it can be done! But, as noted–and for the no. 10 place here–Tolstoy first showed the way.
  11. Okay, this is really really really really hard. This is who-gets-left-out land. Do I toss no. 11 to the Goldstein book, thus avoiding having to write another capsule rendition–and besides the book deserves the place. Or do I hand the laurels to the old Modern Library giant volume, The Complete Novels and Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, some of these being so very good? And what of those teenage favorites, Catcher in the Rye and Hersey’s The Wall and Balzac’s La Quete de l’Absolu and Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (or the later-read Tess of the d’Urbervilles)? What of The Old Wives’ Tale? Or Piercy’s Vida or Three Women, Sarton’s As We Are Now? Or Le Guin’s works, or Tolkien’s trilogy, or A Canticle for Leibowitz? Nevertheless, the place goes to House on the Strand, one of the last novels by underrated English 20th-century author Daphne du Maurier. This novel (like du Maurier’s French Creek, with its heroine who captivates a pirate) is about coming to “maturity” and giving up youthful romance for the daily grind and commitment. It’s a novel that interweaves the late 20th century and the mid-14th century. And it’s really a novel about the magic and danger of writing. Trust me, it’s good.