ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Ballantine Books, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer. Jewish Student Press Service, director; New Voices magazine, editor.
Schlepping through the Alps: My Search for Austria's Jewish Past with Its Last Wandering Shepherd, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to Salon.com and Forward.
WORK IN PROGRESS: In Search of My Foreskin, a book about circumcision.
SIDELIGHTS: Sam Apple's first book, Schlepping through the Alps: My Search for Austria's Jewish Past with Its Last Wandering Shepherd, is an eclectic mix of journalism, history, memoir, and travelogue. The last wandering Austrian shepherd mentioned in the title is Hans Breuer, a man who travels around the Alps herding a flock of over 600 sheep and performing Yiddish folk songs. In 2000 Apple met Breuer when the latter was singing in New York City. Apple was intrigued by the man's story, particularly since Austria has a reputation for anti-Semitism and would seem an unlikely place for a wandering shepherd-cum-singer to be successful performing Yiddish tunes. Hoping to gain a first-hand experience of being a Jew in Austria, Apple—who is also Jewish—signed on as an apprentice shepherd.
Several themes are explored in Schlepping through the Alps. Apple reminisces about his childhood as a Jewish boy growing up in Texas, details his romantic exploits with a young woman he meets in Vienna, and is frank in sharing his various neuroses. Jay Freeman, a reviewer for Booklist, referred to the book as" whimsical, often hilarious, and often deeply disturbing." In several passages, Apple describes the results of some impromptu experiments he carries out in an attempt to judge the amount of anti-Semitism stil existing in Austria. In one case he goes out in public, first in a baseball cap and then in a yarmulke, to see if people react to him differently in relation to his headgear. (They do not.) The author also lays out Breuer's life story: he was born after World War II to a Jewish father who had survived the Holocaust by fleeing to England and a gentile mother who had remained in central Europe and been tortured by the Nazis. As a child Breuer was steeped in radical politics, and he later spent time living on a commune in France. After he became a shepherd, Breuer was introduced to Yiddish songs while visiting another commune in Finland. He immediately fell in love with the music and decided to reintroduce it to his native Austria, which had lost much of its Jewish culture during the Holocaust. Within such diverse topics, "Apple somehow manages to make the absurd combination of sheep and the search for anti-Semitism work," Danielle Max concluded in her review of Schlepping through the Alps for the Jerusalem Post.
The "most prominent theme" in the book, noted a Publishers Weekly contributor, is Apple's "own neurotic personality." Olga B. Wise commented in Library Journal that, in the course of his journey, "Apple matures and becomes a more balanced human being…. You will be hard-pressed to find a better read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Apple, Sam, Schlepping through the Alps: My Search for Austria's Jewish Past with Its Last Wandering Shepherd, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Booklist, February 15, 2005, Jay Freeman, review of Schlepping through the Alps: My Search for Austria's Jewish Past with Its Last Wandering Shepherd, p. 1053.
Jerusalem Post, May 13, 2005, Danielle Max, "Shepherding the Past," p. 23.
Jewish Week, March 20, 2005, Sandee Brawarsky, review of Schlepping through the Alps.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of Schlepping through the Alps, p. 27.
Library Journal, February 1, 2005, Olga B. Wise, review of Schlepping through the Alps, p. 106.
Publishers Weekly, January 17, 2005, review of Schlepping through the Alps, p. 43.
Sam Apple Home Page, http://www.samapple.com (June 24, 2005).
Sam Apple Web log, http://www.samapple.blogspot.com (June 24, 2005).