Monday, April 7, 2014

Zachary Lazar

Zachary Lazar, author of Sway, is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. He lives in New Orleans, where he is on the creative writing faculty at Tulane University.

His new novel is I Pity the Poor Immigrant.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Lazar's reply:
As it happens, just as my own Jewish-themed novel is about to be published, I have been teaching Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer, which has long been a favorite of mine, to my students at Tulane. I told my class that certain books, when you read them at a young enough age, kind of work their way into your writerly DNA and influence just about everything you write thereafter, whether you're aware of it or not. In this case, the influence of The Ghost Writer on my novel I Pity the Poor Immigrant is very obvious to me now, though I didn't realize it until rather late in the game.

The Ghost Writer, of course, appropriates the all but sacred figure of Anne Frank as a way to think about how a Jew can possibly write anything at all worth reading in the wake of the Holocaust. My new book takes the demonized figure of Meyer Lansky, the real-life Jewish gangster, and looks at his life for a larger theme concerning Jews and violence--not just as victims of violence, but also as perpetrators. Like Roth's book, mine is partly about writing itself. It also plays some intricate games with "reality" and, perhaps, says some things about Jews that not everyone is going to like hearing.

I don't mean to equate myself with the great master--only to give him a shoutout for making me the writer I am. I've read The Ghost Writer four or five times now, and I still see new things in it every time.
Read more about I Pity the Poor Immigrant at the Little, Brown and Company website.

--Marshal Zeringue