Albert, Elisa 1978-
Albert, Elisa 1978-
Born 1978. Education: Columbia University, M.F.A. Religion: Jewish.
Home—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]
Columbia University, adjunct assistant professor of creative writing.
How This Night Is Different (stories), Free Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to anthologies, including Body Outlaws, Seal Press (Emeryville, CA), 2004; The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005; and Eight Nights, Algonquin (Chapel Hill, NC), 2007. Contributor to periodicals, including Washington Square and Pindeldyboz.
Elisa Albert's debut story collection, How This Night Is Different, is structured by various Jewish rituals and traditions, including a funeral, a bat mitzvah, and a bris (ritual circumcision). Albert's stories show the ways in which religion both brings people together and drives them apart. Husbands and wives, parents, and children are portrayed in a "spectacularly efficient" fashion by Albert, according to a Kirkus Reviews writer, who went on to note the author's ability to illuminate crucial points about her characters more effectively "in a few well-chosen, beautifully phrased sentences than some authors can manage in an entire novel." The reviewer further noted that while the stories will have particular significance to Jewish readers, the power of these touching and amusing stories to "charm and engage" lifts them above any particular religious affiliation to address the condition of humanity in general. In an interview with Jonathan Segura for Publishers Weekly, the author expressed her feelings about being called a "Jewish writer": "I'm Jewish. I'm a writer, and the stories in the collection all revolve around Jewish lifecycle events, so even if I wanted to do battle with that Jewish-fiction-writer label—which I don't—my case is weak. But it's somewhat reductive, so lots of subtle but really important distinctions get lost." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented on the "youthful, irreverent exuberance" with which Albert's stories explore her Jewish background. San Francisco Chronicle writer Joey Rubin noted that while Albert is very successful in offering a fresh take on Jewish themes, one can "take the Jewish out of Albert's tales and they are still portrayals of characters on the borderlands of dilemma, assertively stuffing self-analysis Crazy Glue into the fissures beginning to fragment their young lives."
Albert told CA: "Reading led me naturally to an interest in writing. I consider myself first and foremost a passionate reader; my writing is an effort to basically recreate in my own voice the best of what I've found in books I love. As Bellow said: ‘A writer is a reader moved to emulation.’ I love Philip Roth, Antonya Nelson, Lorrie Moore, Marilynne Robinson, Graham Greene, Jonathan Lethem, Gary Shteyngart; my writing process is typical of many writers I know—agonize, despair, try and try again, and maybe a few fleeting moments of glory that make the rest of it possible.
"Sometimes the work is smarter than the writer; it's a humbling and kind of exhilarating moment when you realize your fiction is telling its own story, independent of your writerly will. It's my hope that I can illuminate characters who aren't always ‘good’ people and still evoke empathy in a reader. I want to write about characters who don't have an easy time doing what's right, what they should, etc;—people who feel a profound sense of outsiderness but somehow keep butting their heads up against the polite world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2006, review of How This Night Is Different, p. 587.
Library Journal, August 1, 2006, Molly Abramowitz, review of How This Night Is Different, p. 78.
Publishers Weekly, April 10, 2006, review of How This Night Is Different, p. 42; June 12, 2006, Jonathan Segura, interview with Elisa Albert, p. 28.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 23, 2006, Joey Rubin, review of How This Night Is Different.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, September 3, 2006, Helen Eisenbach, review of How This Night Is Different.
Elisa Albert Home Page,http://www.elisaalbert.com (October 27, 2006), biography of Elisa Albert.