Feldman, Jay 1943–
Feldman, Jay 1943–
CAREER: Novelist, musician, business owner, and playwright. Writer for television, film, and stage. Founder, Baseball for Peace, 1985.
Hitting: An Official Major League Baseball Book (nonfiction), Little Simon (New York, NY) 1991.
(And lyricist) A Loud Noise in a Public Place (musical play), music by Fred Sokolow, produced in Jackson, MS, at New Stage Theatre, 1994–95.
When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes (nonfiction), Free Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Suitcase Sefton and the American Dream (fiction), Triumph Books (Chicago, IL), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Smithsonian, Newsweek, New York Times, Gourmet, New Age Journal, Sports Illustrated, and Whole Earth Review. Writer for Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS) television series Brooklyn Bridge.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer and playwright Jay Feldman is a frequent contributor to national magazines as well as a writer for television, film, and the theater. With a B.A. in speech and theater and an M.A. in dramatic art, Feldman has worked as a performer, making his living as a musician during the mid-1970s. In addition, Feldman has lived on a commune, owned a music store, and founded Baseball for Peace, a grassroots organization seeking to increase understanding between the United States and Nicaragua through the common medium of baseball. An early work, Hitting: An Official Major League Baseball Book, offers comprehensive instruction in the proper ways to hit a baseball for maximum effect.
In When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes Feldman presents a history of the awesome physical force and the unexpected social effects of the devastating New Madrid, Missouri, earthquakes that shook the lower Ohio and mid-Mississippi valleys from December 1811 to April 1812. More powerful even than the legendary San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the New Madrid quakes were felt throughout the entire eastern United States. Because they were centered in the more-sparsely populated Midwest regions, however, fewer lives were lost, but the tremendous power of the quakes still shook towns into rubble, altered the region's geography, and even temporarily reversed the flow of the Mississippi River. Feldman pays particular attention to the geology and seismology (the intensity, direction, and duration) of the quakes as he examines their effects.
Feldman also includes other prominent historical figures and events of the day, including Nicholas Roosevelt, whose steamboat suffered from the effects of the quake on the Mississippi River; Lilburne and Randolph Lewis, slaveowners and nephews of Thomas Jefferson, who were discovered to be murderers when a chimney collapsed during the quake and revealed the remains of a slain ex-slave; George Morgan, New Madrid founder; and legendary Native American chief Tecumseh, who saw in the quakes spiritual disapproval of the whites and the prophecy that the Indians would vanquish the settlers. "Feldman composes a fluent, coherent narrative that culminates in the War of 1812," stated Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor. The author "skillfully presents an exciting narrative based on many primary sources, introducing general readers to frontier life in the 1810s," commented Charles L. Lumpkins in Library Journal, while a Bookwatch reviewer wrote that Feldman's "lively style" and attention to historical detail "links many seemingly disparate events to provide a uniform history" of the region. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "a diverting patchwork of events, with colorful characters, that Feldman's well-paced storytelling turns into a vivid historical panorama."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes, p. 1044.
Bookwatch, August, 2005, review of When the Mississippi Ran Backwards.
Library Journal, March 1, 2005, Charles L. Lumpkins, review of When the Mississippi Ran Backwards, p. 97.
Publishers Weekly, January 31, 2005, review of When the Mississippi Ran Backwards, p. 60.
Jay Feldman Home Page, http://www.jfeldman.com (September 19, 2005).