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Issue 53, April-June 2014
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
by Perle Besserman
Followed by Q&A

Aryeh had come too early to the airport. His cousin Leo’s fax had informed him that Stella Richter, his girlfriend Harriet’s widowed ex-mother-in-law, would be landing at seven in the evening. It was now only five-thirty. Except for the airline, flight number, and time of arrival, and an oblique reference to Mrs. Richter’s “tragic circumstances,” Leo hadn’t even included a description of the woman Aryeh was supposed to meet. 

Removing the crumpled message from his pocket, Aryeh read it for the twentieth time. A testy maintenance man in a baggy jumpsuit and high rubber boots was trying to mop the floor under his seat. 

“Do you want me to get up, friend?” Aryeh said, annoyed, though his voice was low-pitched and polite. It might be that the maintenance man was a security agent in disguise. Then again, knowing his countrymen as well as he did, it might be just a rude maintenance man at that. 

“Not at all, you needn’t get up on my account,” said the mustached man, resting his chin on his mop handle. 

I’ve been sitting here too long; that’s what it is. I look suspicious, Aryeh thought, getting up and making a conciliatory gesture with his hand. Thank heaven for these security boys. Aryeh elbowed his way through a crowd of Scandinavian tourists to the coffee bar and ordered an espresso. Leaning against the packed counter, he eyed himself in the mirror over the bar. Reflecting back at him was a dour-faced man in protracted mourning wearing a shabby gray jacket and pants, unfashionably pointed wing-tip shoes, and with hair so long that even his son referred to him, in English, as, “My father, the hippie.” What would the American lady think of him? 

Leo didn’t give me enough time to reflect on this, to prepare, or to refuse, he thought, trying at the same time to avoid the frank gaze of the girl in the white cap who was standing in front of him at the counter waiting for him to pay for his coffee. 

“How do I present myself to a stranger, a woman I’ve never met before?” he’d asked his daughter Naomi in Jerusalem on the telephone that morning, immediately after the fax had arrived. 

“Tell her you’re a widower with a wounded son to take care of,” Naomi had advised him. “Tell her you’re still mad with grief over your wife who’s been dead for four years. If she’s rich, let her take you to the Hilton for dinner. Try to be your usual adorable self, Abba. Try not to be distracted; don’t smoke like a chimney if you can help it; and above all, don’t go on about your being a Freemason and a believer in the Brotherhood of Man and all that. Stay out of arguments about the Arabs.” 

Unlike her gentle brother Yosef, Naomi could joke about such things. Her appointment as assistant professor of philosophy at the precocious age of twenty-seven had made her proud and more than a little caustic. Maybe, too, the fact that she had lost her fiancé in a skirmish on the Golan Heights. Now she no longer seemed interested in dating, but devoted every minute of her time to preparing her courses and to some arcane piece of work she was writing that had to do, she’d once let drop, with an eighteenth-century British philosopher whose name he’d forgotten. Now that Naomi lived alone in Jerusalem and hung around with intellectuals, Aryeh could no longer hold a serious conversation with her; all she did was joke. 

But she’s right, Aryeh thought. I do smoke like a chimney. His jacket lapels smelled of stale tobacco. He’d bought a packet of breath mints at a kiosk before entering the airport. Now he unwrapped it and put one into his mouth. Hating the chalky taste, he spat it into his hand then threw it, along with the entire packet, into a nearby trash basket. Mrs. Richter would have to tolerate his tobacco smell. 

In the men’s room, he combed his hair and washed his hands with fragrant green soap. Here, too, he was stalked by the ubiquitous maintenance man. Only three days before an Arab boy of twelve had left a homemade bomb on a toilet seat. Luckily, when it exploded the men’s room had been empty. Aryeh nodded at the maintenance man and walked out of the men’s room. He went back to the kiosk and scanned the newspapers, then thought of buying a paperback to while away the time, but did not, because he was too restless to read. Besides, he didn’t want to waste the money on a book he might end up throwing away. Aryeh did not like to think of himself as stingy, but since his retirement he’d begun to worry about wasting money. Yosef’s army pension had provided additional money toward rent and household expenses, but even that hadn’t kept up with inflation. Everyone in Israel these days was suffering from lack of money—everyone he knew, anyway. Not counting, of course, the diplomats, politicians, businessmen, and espionage agents who traveled around the world at the taxpayer’s expense. Aryeh had once toyed with the idea of becoming a diplomat himself (his English, Russian, and Arabic were almost as fluent as his Hebrew), but Yosef’s condition on returning from the front had put any notion of travel to rest. 

Then there were the wealthy Americans. He’d watched them lolling about on the beaches near the hotels only a few blocks from his flat. They were good for Israel, pumped millions into the economy; but that didn’t keep Aryeh from disliking them. Their bloated bellies and gross conversations appalled him, and he no longer walked in the direction of the hotels when he went to the market in the morning. The last time he’d taken the beach road, he’d been outraged by an American woman he’d seen pointing to a passing military jet overhead. “See that up there?” she’d smirked at her Israeli escort, “that’s my Phantom, paid for with my American dollars.” The handsome young Sabra hadn’t really understood her. Only the word “Phantom” seemed to have registered. He’d thrown back his curly head and, showing his beautiful white teeth, laughed up at the sky. Both the crudeness of the woman and the pitiful laughter of the Sabra had disgusted him. These ignorant, swaggering Americans were always making boastful remarks at his country’s expense unaware (and probably not caring) that the “natives” might understand what they were saying. Aryeh could no longer count how many times he’d had to restrain himself from walking up to these American Jews on the street and telling them to take their money and go to hell. When he complained to Naomi, she brushed him off. 

“Don’t listen to them, Abba,” she said in her joking tone of voice. “Just as long as the money keeps coming, what do you care what they say?” 

Children were like that. They grew up, became preoccupied with their arcane philosophical treatises and their radical politics; radical today, conservative tomorrow. Aryeh knew, he’d been through it all himself. But he was sick and tired of politics, would rather spend his time thinking of Marti. Every so often, in the midst of a crowd, he might catch sight of a woman who reminded him of her. Even a small detail could set his heart to banging between his ribs like a loose hinge on a door, make him short of breath and bring dry sobs to his throat. Only a moment ago he’d been set off by the glimpse of a glossy black chignon. But then, as the woman passed by, awkwardly clomping along on thick platform shoes, he’d noticed that her expression was bland and stupid, her eyes dull. Her face looked nothing at all like Marti’s, which, defined by its high Slavic cheekbones, had been wide and intelligent. The light illuminating his wife’s green eyes had been otherworldly, like no other light he had ever seen. 

Before moving to Israel, Marti had been an artist and a photographer’s model in Paris. A Hungarian beauty with long legs and a ready laugh, she’d been an excellent dancer. They’d met at a nightclub where Aryeh and his friends, a group of idealistic young engineers with big plans for irrigating the desert, had gone dancing. 

Jaffa. A cool night swarming with stars. A club called The Scorpion. The “Pride of Lions,” as he and his friends called themselves, had worn their best clothes. Three beret-clad strolling musicians were playing a balalaika, a clarinet, and a violin. What they lacked in technique, they made up for with flashy bows, out-thrust chins, and sheer loudness. Aryeh and his friends were in a particularly good mood that night, since one of them, Yakov, had lost a distant uncle in Prague who’d left him a small inheritance. The Pride of Lions planned to celebrate Yakov’s newly acquired “wealth” with wine and dancing. 

A tall girl with a pockmarked face and big feet was the first to approach their table. She’d been sitting with two companions a few tables away and had ignored her friends when they tried to stop her. But her friends hadn’t objected strenuously enough, and the big girl had had her way. Soon the two tables were joined and the separate parties converged, making a group of six. Lea, pale and fragile except for her great bulging bosoms, shyly flirted with Uri, a muscular giant with a beard and drooping mustaches, which, Lea said, reminded her of a circus wrestler she’d seen as a child. Uri, who lifted weights, took this as an immediate invitation to regale them all with the story of his life, which, of course, had nothing to do with either circuses or wrestlers. Uri was to marry his shy Lea and become a high school math teacher. Two years later, along with ten of his students, he would die in a bomb attack on his school. 

Yakov, a sputtering Marxist, was immediately chosen by Irina of the big feet. Hardly paying her any mind, he was busily lecturing his friends on the inevitable decay of capitalism and the triumph of the proletariat. But the music was loud, and his friends were too busy flirting to pay any attention to him. It was a perfect evening for the young. Wonderful to be alive with your back pressed against the hard iron coils of a café chair, the circular designs imprinted on the skin under your shirt, boasting, pontificating, shouting platitudes at no one in particular, and feeling totally invulnerable. 

Aryeh sat and stared at Marti as she talked about her life in Paris among the artists. “Don’t be deceived by her refined features,” Yakov had leaned over and whispered in his ear. “This girl is far from being a delicate flower.” 

Marti had challenged him and his friends to dance that night at The Scorpion. “You all talk a good game,” she’d said, placing her hands on the table in front of him. “Now let’s see if even one of you can do something.” 

“Go on, Valentino,” Uri cried, pushing Aryeh up from his chair. “Give her number 35B,” he urged, referring to a classification of techniques the Pride of Lions had developed among themselves for impressing women. 

The frantic musicians had launched into a tango. Mimicking a Parisian apache dancer, Aryeh had gotten up from the table and pulled Marti close to his chest. She’d responded by pressing her cheek against his and vamping them across the crowded dance floor. Then she’d led him out the open door to a small patio on the beach, the musicians and their friends following after them. Though it smelled strongly of fish, the patio provided a perfect Hollywood set, and they were soon joined outside by the other dancers, who began clapping in time to the music. Marti had taken the crowd’s clapping and shouting as a cue to show off her considerable dancing skills. Giving him no warning other than a broad, toothsome smile, and clutching the ends of her wide skirt in her hands, she’d swung herself out of his grasp, jumped up on a table, and graced her audience with a furious flamenco performance. Ending with a loud “Ole!” she’d leapt from the table into his arms. Aryeh had been so caught up in Marti’s performance that, without realizing what he was doing, he had dipped her low to the floor and landed a passionate kiss on her mouth. 

Yakov came up and clapped him hard on the shoulder as they made their way back into the club through the stamping, cheering crowd. “I fear you’re headed for the bourgeois domestic trap, my friend Aryeh. Never before have I seen such an obvious surrender of— ” 

“Enough! No more pontificating tonight, Yakov,” Aryeh scolded after they’d sat down again at their table. Not wanting to spoil the remainder of the evening with an argument, he’d made a big show of ordering a large bottle of cognac; it had been a symbolic gesture, really, a way of announcing to his friends that he’d fallen passionately in love with Marti and wanted them to help him celebrate the occasion. But as it happened so often with him, Aryeh hadn’t been able to come up with the right words. If he’d been an orator, like Yakov, or a boaster, like Uri, he might have climbed on a chair and publicly made his declaration of love. But he was an introvert by nature, and the very best he’d been able to do to celebrate his newfound love was order a bottle of cognac. 

Now, everyone else but Aryeh was drinking and smoking and talking. The musicians had packed up and gone, the dancers had dispersed; only an ancient radio grinding out popular tunes in Arabic was left to provide them with background music. Aryeh leaned back in his chair. Through the open door of the club, he could see the port of Jaffa with its jutting Andromeda’s Rock. He had dreamed great things for that harbor; had entered Palestine that way himself. Many relatives had died, would never see the new homeland. Aryeh considered himself lucky to be sitting in The Scorpion; lucky to be surrounded by friends, dreaming dreams for the future with Marti. 

“The bottle’s almost empty.” Looking like a rabbi speculating on a moral problem Yakov shrugged and creased his forehead. 

“Never mind the cognac. Lea, it’s time for you to hear Aryeh’s story,” said Uri, who could not enjoy an evening out unless it included someone’s life story and, because he’d already told his own, wanted to impress Lea with Aryeh’s. “I was born here, in Palestine, Yakov came as a babe in arms, but what a tale Aryeh has to tell!” Snuggling Lea, Uri rocked back in his chair and almost crashed them both into the tray of a passing waiter. 

“Aren’t you bored with it by now?” Aryeh had intended to reserve the details of his life for Marti when they were alone. The gardenia scent of her perfume was still clinging to his shirt collar, arousing him, and he had no desire to share himself with anyone but her. But Marti would not be put off. Leaning forward on her elbows and giving him an impish grin, she said, “Yes, let’s hear it. Let’s hear this amazing life story of yours.” 

Yakov snorted. “Fled from the only hope we Jews ever had in all our miserable history,” he said. “Mother Russia wasn’t good enough for you after the Revolution, eh? You enjoyed those pogroms, did you?” 

The others booed him. 

“Let the man give us his own story, will you?” Irina kicked Yakov under the table with her outsized shoe, settling him into grudging silence. 

Pleased at seeing his newfound importance reflected in Marti’s eyes, Aryeh had given in. 

“Well, do you want it from the beginning or from the time we had to leave Siberia?” 

“Sketch in the details for us,” said Uri, waving his huge calloused hands at him impatiently. “And don’t forget the Tatars.” 

“Oh,” squealed Lea. “You grew up in Siberia, among the Tatars, how exotic!” 

Nodding, Aryeh poured the last of the cognac into his glass and drank it down in one gulp. 

“I’m from Odessa,” Lea said excitedly. “It’s so coo-ld in Siberia; how could you stand it?” 

“Shush,” intercepted the massive Irina, “let the man tell his story. You can give weather reports later.” 

Loz zein shah!” cried Yakov in Yiddish, banging his fist on the table. “Let there be silence!” 

Feeling the cognac burning a hole in his gut, Aryeh smacked his lips and winced. Then he said, “My father was a rich textile merchant in Irkutsk. We lived in luxury; my mother played the piano, we had a maid and a chauffeur, carpets on every floor and the smoked side of a cow in the cellar, along with sacks full of sunflower seeds, halvah, caviar, pistachios—plenty of good things to eat, always. As for Yakov’s pogroms, we never knew any, where we lived, because it was too cold for the anti-Semites. The community was interdependent; my father had plenty of non-Jewish friends and customers. In fact, according to Jewish custom, we used to invite one Gentile friend to our Passover Seder each year. 

“We might have been wealthy, but we were raised with a strong social consciousness. The poor were always welcome at our table; we kids were often moved out of our beds and sent to sleep on top of the huge stove in the kitchen to accommodate a wandering scholar or a pianist down on his luck. I was ten, my brother Sasha thirteen, and my sister Olga nineteen when the sons of the Glorious Revolution finally made their way to Siberia. My father had always done business without gouging any of his customers. He treated his workers fairly; he was a deeply ethical, deeply religious man and was held in high esteem by everyone in the community. Even the Tatars, known for their shrewd bargaining abilities, trusted him. He was the only merchant in Irkutsk they would trade with. 

“I remember them in their great, shaggy fur coats and soft reindeer skin boots, sitting on pickle barrels spitting sunflower seed shells on the floor as they countered my father’s prices. Sometimes they would sit like that for hours without saying a word, only blurting out a bargain price for a rug, which they must have wanted very badly, because those Tatars never showed their eagerness over anything. They were so placid, with their round golden faces, piercing black eyes, and thick, straight hair hanging past their shoulders to the middle of their backs, or, occasionally, braided into long pigtails.” 

“There’s the old stereotype . . . the inscrutable Oriental,” Yakov interrupted sarcastically. 

“Shut up!” Irina prodded him with her elbow. Giving her a disgusted look, Yakov folded his arms on his chest and pretended to doze. 

“My sister—unknown to the rest of us—”Aryeh resumed, talking only to Marti now, “had joined the Reds and worked her way up the bureaucratic ladder, becoming a minor functionary in the Komsomol group she’d secretly joined. Ironically, that was what saved us all. It turned out that someone had gone to the Communist authorities (my father later found out it was a jealous neighbor, a Jew, by the way) and told them that he was hiding an enormous fortune in his cellar. This wasn’t true, at least not by then, because my father, who was always one step ahead of politics, had sent the bulk of his fortune to his brother in Palestine in the hope of settling here one day.” 

“And the money . . . ” Uri interposed. “Tell them what happened to it.” 

“Later.” Aryeh smiled indulgently. He’d wanted so much to be alone with Marti at that moment, to forget the past—as dangerous, colorful, and exciting as it was—and begin a new life with her. Looking into her eyes had made him want to erase it all, and he’d had to grope for memories that had once come to him so easily. 

Uri, who’d heard the story many times, sensed that Aryeh was growing distracted and prodded him on. Wrinkling his forehead, he said, “Okay, so the sister by this time was a Communist and the neighbor squealed about the money, then what?” 

“Then one fine day a gentleman with a mustache like Stalin’s and a red armband on his coat sleeve knocked at our door. He was soon followed by other gentlemen with red armbands on their coat sleeves who demanded to search the house. 

“‘We hear you have a fortune stashed away in this house,’ said the first gentleman, his eyes traveling over the furniture, the silk shawl on the piano, the shivering maid. ‘For the sake of the Revolution, comrade, surely you won’t mind if we have a look.’ 

“Seeing a bulge under my mother’s apron, the first gentleman asked her, politely, to remove her ‘money belt’—and was clearly disappointed to find that it wasn’t a money belt but the rolling pin my mother, who’d been in the middle of baking, had stuffed under her apron in case she would have to bang heads. Finding nothing of importance, they took the food from our cupboards, confiscated, they said, for the good of Yakov’s ‘glorious revolution,’ and told us we’d better be prepared to move—fast. 

“I’m sure it was only because of my sister’s Komsomol connections that we weren’t all put on ice and left to freeze to death, like our wealthy neighbors. Instead, we were allowed to take some clothes and books—but no money—and were sent to the district commissar who would ensure our safe departure from the Soviet Union. Handing us glasses of tea stuffed with jam, respectfully bowing to my mother, and apologizing profusely for the delay, that gentleman informed us that he could do nothing until he’d heard from Central Headquarters. After four days of my mother’s weeping and my father’s appeal to the commissar as “one human being to another,” we were rudely pushed onto a dock with our few belongings and packed into steerage on a leaky tub headed for Jaffa. Despite our pleas, my sister had chosen to remain behind. 

“‘Never mind,’ my father would comfort us against the stench of humanity in steerage. ‘Olga will join us once we get there, and we’ll all be happy again. Wait and see, the weather will be warm and we will live in a pardes, a garden.’ 

“‘Like Adam and Eve?’ my brother Sasha, a serious Bible scholar, wanted to know. 

“‘Better than Adam and Eve,’ said my father, patting him on the head. ‘We’ll live in an orange grove and you’ll pick juicy oranges from the trees and eat them right there’—” 

Yakov snorted, his eyelids still closed in ostensible sleep, “Some orange groves!” 

“Will you shut up and let the man tell his story,” Uri chided, thrusting his face up close to Yakov’s. 

Marti threw back her shoulders, pushed her chair to one side and crossed her long legs. “I’ll bet you landed and found yourself paupers,” she said. 

“How did you guess?” Aryeh asked, his heart overflowing with tenderness toward her. 

Turning to face him, Marti clasped his hand. “Because it happened that way to ninety nine percent of those who came here with high hopes for the Promised Land. Instead of milk and honey, our parents came here and found sand and rocks.” 

“Lea, your parents were never poor; you always went to French school and took lunches with the children of diplomats, as I recall,” said Irina, having always envied her friend’s good fortune. 

“My father is a doctor. Professional people were desperately needed here. The place was full of malaria then,” said Lea defensively. 

“What do you mean then? What about today, may I ask?” Yakov opened his eyes fully, now abandoning all pretenses at sleep. It was a subject close to him that they were discussing here, none of the old nostalgic driveling over the Tsarist murderers. “I have two cousins right now down with malaria. They’re draining swampland in the North, and a lot anyone cares for them,” he finished testily. 

“I guess no one wants to hear my life story anymore,” said Aryeh. 

“Me, I do.” Marti and he were now holding hands openly. “Why don’t you walk me home and finish it.” 

Given the clue to disband, the Pride of Lions coupled off—Yakov still in a bad temper, with stooped shoulders, his hands in his pockets, scuffing along like a truculent schoolboy, Uri disgruntled at having lost control of the evening’s direction, yet excited at the prospect of pressing his chest against Lea’s enticing breasts in her doorway, and Aryeh wildly, overwhelmingly in love. 

When he and Marti were alone, she turned to him and said, “Did the uncle steal the money?”
Caught off balance, Aryeh asked, “What uncle?” It was a tactic Marti would use throughout their life together, picking up the strand of a long-lapsed conversation and surprising him with a question. 

“The one your father gave all the rubles to in advance.” 

“Oh, my uncle . . .” He guided her down a narrow cobblestone staircase into the town square and led her to a bench in front of the Tower of Abdul Hamid. “No, he didn’t steal the money. He was a poet, a sincere Orthodox Jew; he would never steal it outright. But he did manage to invest it poorly and lose every last ruble.” 

Marti laughed. “Forgive me. I know it must seem like a tragedy to you but I was just picturing the looks on your faces.” 

“It wasn’t very funny to my mother. She was a lady, with fine hands and superior manners.” 

“Did your father punch the uncle in the nose?” 

“Of course not. Where do you get such ideas?” 

“That’s what my father would have done.” Again she laughed, covering her mouth with her hands, her shoulders bobbing. “I’m really sorry. I’m given to laughing fits—sometimes over nothing. When I was little they used to keep me after school for punishment, making me write a thousand times on the blackboard that I would not laugh in class. But that didn’t help, I went right on laughing anyway. My classmates called me ‘the laughing fool.’ I think I inherited the tendency from my mother. She and I would only just have to look at each other in a shop and we’d burst out laughing so hard we’d nearly collapse.” 

“How strange.” 

“Yes, isn’t it?” Marti stopped giggling suddenly and gave him a serious look. “I guess it’s what psychologists would call nerves.” 

“I guess so.” 

“I think you might want to kiss me now.” Closing her eyes, she lifted her face and puckered her lips into a cupid’s bow. 

Aryeh moved toward her, but something about her exaggerated preparation for his kiss tickled him and he guffawed. Marti joined in, and for a full five minutes the two of them had sat in the square rocking the bench with their laughter . . . 

Like a man reaching out for a phantom limb, Aryeh forced his wife back into consciousness, forming and re-forming their life together, as he was now, in his mind, though outwardly preoccupied with scanning the faces of the tourists as they emerged from behind the customs barrier. 

“Excuse me,” someone was interrupting the flow of his thoughts. Aryeh looked in the direction of the voice that had addressed him in English and saw that it belonged to a brisk, sturdy little woman wearing a smart gray suit and matching gray felt hat and carrying an expensive alligator purse. 

“Excuse me,” she said again, “you wouldn’t happen to be Mr. Lieber, would you? Aryeh Lieber?”

Recipient of the Theodore Hoepfner Fiction Award and past writer-in-residence at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim Artists’ Colony in Jerusalem, Pushcart Prize-nominee Perle Besserman was praised by Isaac Bashevis Singer for the “clarity and feeling for mystic lore” of her writing and by Publisher’s Weekly for its “wisdom [that] points to a universal practice of the heart.” Her autobiographical novel Pilgrimage was published by Houghton Mifflin, and her latest novels, Kabuki Boy, and Widow Zion, and two story collections, Marriage and Other Travesties of Love, and Yeshiva Girl, are available from Aqueous Books, Pinyon Publishing, and Homebound Publishing, respectively. Her short fiction has appeared in The Southern Humanities Review, Agni, Transatlantic Review, Nebraska Review, Southerly, North American Review, Bamboo Ridge, and in many other publications, both online and in print. Besserman’s most recent books of creative non-fiction are A New Zen for Women (Palgrave Macmillan) and Zen Radicals, Rebels, and Reformers, coauthored with Manfred Steger (Wisdom Books). Visit Perle on the web at:


Q: What was the inspiration for this story?
A: Based on the centuries’-old struggle between Jews and Arabs in its current Palestinian/Israeli incarnation, this contemporary story rooted in the ancient biblical tale of exile and return reveals that the so-called “clash of civilizations” actually lies within the Jewish Diaspora itself.

Q: What does your writing space look like?
A: Part book-filled office, part Zen retreat space, I write in a sunny, angled room surrounded by photos and mementos and a Japanese futon for reading and resting in the late afternoons.

Q: What’s your writing process?
A: No “process”—more like what Yeats describes. I sit quietly in front of my computer and wait until the stage inside my head is occupied by characters, dialogue, and situations that demand to be told, before I start writing. It’s a very visual, and even auditory, experience—a bit like dreaming. After the story appears on the page, I shift into editorial mode, revising, reworking, and “revisioning” the material, in a conscious effort to find “le mot juste”.

Q: What living writer do you admire most and why? Is there a particular book you refer to again and again?
A: Too many to name here. But, if I have to pick only one, I’ll say Alice Munro.
The particular book I refer to, though, is Dickens’s Great Expectations.

Q: What are you working on now?
A: Two novels (The Kabbalah Master and The Infamous Doctor Dee) and a story collection (Fay’s Men) all very different in character, setting, and tone—yet related by the common theme of spiritual searching, its misadventures and, too often, baleful encounters. “The Beach Incident,” a slightly different version of the first chapter of The Kabbalah Master was recently published in the online literary journal “Imitation Fruit.” And most of the stories in Fay’s Men appeared in a number of literary journals both in the United States and in Australia.