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Flusfeder, David (L.) 1960-

FLUSFEDER, David (L.) 1960-

PERSONAL:

Born November, 1960, in Berkeley Heights, NJ; married, 1993; children: two. Education: Sussex University, B.A., 1983; University of East Anglia, M.A., 1988.

ADDRESSES:

Home—London, England. Agent—c/o HarperCollins Publishers, 77-85 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London W6 8JB, England.

CAREER:

Writer and journalist. Times, London, England, TV columnist, 1993-1996; taught creative writing at Birkbeck and Morley Colleges, University of London, Arvon Foundation, and Pentonville Prison, London. Also worked as cinema manager and projectionist.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Encore Award, for best second novel, Society of Authors, 1997, for Like Plastic.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

Man Kills Woman, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1993.

Like Plastic, J. Cape (London, England), 1996.

Morocco, Fourth Estate (London, England), 2000.

The Gift, Fourth Estate (London, England), 2003.

SHORT STORIES

(Contributor) Fatherhood, Gollancz (London, England), 1997.

(Contributor) The Agony and the Ecstasy: New Writing for the World Cup, Sceptre (London, England), 1998.

(Contributor) New Writing 8, Vintage (London, England), 1999.

Also contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Erotic Review, Arena, Esquire, and Jewish Quarterly. Contributor to Daily Telegraph, Guardian, TLS, GQ, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Literaturen, and Jewish Chronicle.

SIDELIGHTS:

Born in the United States to immigrant parents, David Flusfeder was raised and currently lives in England, where he writes regularly for newspapers and magazines. Flusfeder's location and family's immigration history play a significant role in his writings. Times Literary Supplement's Paul Quinn described Flusfeder's first novel, Man Kills Woman, as a testimony to "the past's slipperiness." Furthermore, a Publishers Weekly contributor called it a "study of the elusiveness and essential unknowability of human character." The novel takes the form of a one-way love letter from Boston sportswriter Richard Tierney to English publisher Dorothy Burton, who has hired Tierney to write a biography of the distinguished British psychologist William Ivory. Tierney's navigation of the vagueness surrounding Ivory's death provides for "an unusual mystery with excellent character studies of both the biographer and his subject," said the Publishers Weekly reviewer. Despite some failings, noted Michael Harris in the Los Angeles Times, "Flusfeder has so much fun in this book—his minor characters are so juicy, his descriptions so ripe, his send-ups of English voices so wickedly overdone, his narrative embellished by so many splendidly unnecessary touches … we can't help but have fun too."

The conflict of Flusfeder's award-winning second novel, Like Plastic, is centered around a family-owned plastics factory in West London. Lithuanian Jewish cousins Howard and Charlie Levy battle over the rights to the company while Howard, the protagonist, deals with an array of more personal family problems. Times Literary Supplement contributor Paul Quinn described the novel as "a series of narratives collectively indicating the pain behind families and history and work, and the desire to escape into a more fluid sense of self." According to Quinn, plastic serves as metaphor of the shiftiness of past, future, and self. The novel is further described as a "fiction formally torn between tradition and innovation … teetering between native realism and something more fractured."

Flusfeder's third book, Morocco, is dedicated to the author's family members who did not survive the tribulations of the Warsaw ghettos during World War II. The title of the novel refers to a fantasy destination for the primary character, Gloria, a therapist trapped in a city about to be occupied by the Nazis. Throughout most of the book, locations and names are left ambiguous (for example, "Newcomer's residential district, Other side," and simply "Them") but strongly imply real-life people and places. Knowing that Flusfeder's father grew up in Poland, it is explicitly clear that the novel, explained by James Urquart of the London Financial Times, focuses on "the Nazi atrocities visited upon [Warsaw's] Jewish population. But Flusfeder's choice not to name the city generates a more powerful, fabular atmosphere beyond the retelling of an historic episode," and that "Morocco sustains the fragile (and necessary) fantasy of escape." Flusfeder does acknowledge the unnamed city as Warsaw in an endnote. For Jessica Smerin of the Times Literary Supplement, this posed a problem. In her opinion, Flusfeder "never shakes off the caricatural, sensuous burlesque of the novel's opening" and therefore "risks being offensive." Selina Mills of the London Observer, however, wrote that Flusfeder's "allegorical tale" enables him to investigate the effects of "terror and dehumanisation" rather than focusing on external trauma. "External borders," Mills observed, "increasingly become internal ones," and changes in the narrative reflect a dissolving sense of reality. An Economist critic concluded, Flusfeder suggests "the terrible uncertainty that descends on the city, erasing any sense of boundary or safety. You are never sure, even geographically, which side of the ghetto walls you are on, or who is inside and who out.…the lines between good and bad, sane and crazy, blur and disappear."

"Few novels excite us enough to make us want to retell them to anyone willing to listen. The Gift is such a novel," said Elena Lappin of the Guardian, beginning her review of Flusfeder's fourth novel, The Gift. Protagonist Phillip, a former teenage soccer star now going through a midlife crisis, suffers from an inferiority complex and is obsessed with 'one-upping' friends who keep showering his family with expensive gifts. Lappin called The Gift "a profound, honest novel about contemporary male angst." Joanna M. Burkhardt writing in Library Journal, observed that Flusfeder "allows Phillip to narrate his own story, giving it a surreal quality as the teller loses his mind to his obsession." New York Times Book Review contributor Scott Sutherland remarked that even when Phillip was at his worst, "only the most fortune-blessed readers will fail to recognize in themselves the same disappointments that transform Phillip into such a rough but amusing beast."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 2003, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Gift, p. 580.

Economist, July 15, 2000, review of Morocco, section S, p. 14.

Financial Times (London), January 29, 2000, James Urquart, review of "Morocco," p. 4.

Guardian (Manchester, England), February 8, 2003, Elena Lappin, review of The Gift, p. 26.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2003, review of The Gift, p. 1190.

Library Journal, August 1, 1993, Elsa Pendleton, review of Man Kills Woman, p. 149; January 2004, Joanna M. Burkhardt, review of The Gift, p. 155.

Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1993, Michael Harris, review of Man Kills Woman, p. 2.

New Statesman, February 10, 2003, Hugo Barnacle, "Ha Ha and Peculiar," p. 52.

New York Times Book Review, November 23, 2003, Scott Sutherland, review of The Gift, p. 24.

Observer (London), March 5, 2000, Selina Mills, review of Morocco, p. 13.

Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1993, review of Man Kills Woman, p. 68; September 29, 2003, review of The Gift, p. 41.

Times (London), January 6, 2001, review of Morocco, p. 18; February 1, 2003, review of The Gift, p. 14.

Times Literary Supplement, September 6, 1996, Paul Quinn, review of Like Plastic, p. 22; January 28, 2000, Jessica Smerin, review of Morocco, p. 23; February 14, 2003, Paddy Bullard, The Gift, p. 22.

ONLINE

Contemporary Writers Web site,http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (July 2, 2004), "David Flusfeder."

HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (May 28, 2004), "David Flusfeder."*

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