Havazelet, Ehud 1955-
Havazelet, Ehud 1955-
Born July 13, 1955, in Jerusalem, Israel; immigrated to United States, 1957; son of Meir (a rabbi and professor at Yeshiva University) and Sarah (an executive) Havazelet; married Molly Brown, August, 1999; children: Michael, Jacob. Education: Columbia University, A.B., 1977; University of Iowa Writers Workshop, M.F.A., 1984. Politics: "Skeptical." Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Blues guitar.
Home—Corvallis, OR. Office—University of Oregon, Program in Creative Writing, Eugene, OR 97403-5243. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, novelist, educator, and short story writer. Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, Jones Lecturer, 1985-89; Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, associate professor, 1995-99; University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, associate professor of creative writing, 1999—. Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, faculty member, 1995.
PEN, Associated Writing Programs.
Literary Arts fellowship, 1990 and 1994; California Book Award, Pushcart Prize, and Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, all 1988; Whiting Award, and Oregon Book Award for fiction, both 1999; Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, 2000; Guggenheim fellowship, 2001; Giles Whiting Foundation fellowship; Wallace Stegner fellowship, Stanford University.
What Is It Then between Us? (short stories), Scribner (New York, NY), 1988.
Like Never Before (short stories), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1998.
Bearing the Body (novel), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.
Ehud Havazelet was born in Israel and raised in New York City, a location that appears often in his stories. Havazelet's grandfather was a famed Jewish scholar as well as a rabbi at one of the largest American synagogues, and his father was a rabbi who was also a professor of rabbinic studies at Yeshiva University, the top-ranked Orthodox Jewish university in America. In an interview in the Oregonian, Havazelet told Jeff Baker: "I grew up in the tight-knit, occasionally airless Orthodox community in New York, where the privilege and the burden of the family name were constant markers." Havazelet was more Americanized than his parents and grandparents, more interested in speaking English than Hebrew, and more interested in what the New York Yankees were doing than in studying religious texts. He saw his parents' world as "cloistered, xenophobic," according to Baker, and said: "When I was eighteen and it was time to make a choice, there was no choice." He eventually moved to Oregon, where he has remained.
What Is It Then between Us?, Havazelet's first collection of stories, "bears many earmarks of contemporary short fiction," according to Richard Rosen in the New York Times Book Review. Rosen went on to favorably cite "a cute randomness of event, sardonic observation, and quirky domestic scenes." Characters include a boy who has a crush on his cousin; a middle-aged man who is in love with his roommate, a much younger woman; and an unhappily married woman who discovers that her mother has attempted suicide. Rosen wrote that the stories are notable for Havazelet's "oblique insights, mild existential dread, and sense of humor." A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that although readers may be dismayed by "the perpetual failure of his characters to connect," his prose is "spare and highly polished."
Havazelet's second story collection, Like Never Before, covers several generations in the family of David Birnbaum who, like Havazelet, grew up in New York and left it for Oregon. Many of the stories explore David's anger at his father, who teaches at an Orthodox Jewish high school. David, who is more involved in secular American culture, is passionate about baseball, an interest his father does not comprehend. In Judaism, reviewer D. Mesher commented that the volume "hints at autobiographical angst but keeps the reader firmly rooted in the fictional lives of its characters." In the Southern Review, Randall Curb wrote that "the book's ten stories have a cumulative power and an amplitude that any novelist might envy," and that the stories were "generous in sweep." He also praised Havazelet's "straightforward, utterly unfussy prose." Library Journal reviewer Judith Kicinski noted that the book "reads like a novel," and in Booklist, Donna Seaman wrote that Havazelet will "enrapture" readers with this collection. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "In [Havazelet's] hands, this kaleidoscope of alternating narrators and shifted chronologies coalesces into a haunting family portrait."
After his two short-story collections, Havazelet made his debut as a novelist with Bearing the Body, in which widower and Holocaust survivor Solomon Mirsky must deal with the unexpected death of a son. Mirsky is a successful business owner, but he remains haunted by his memories of life in a concentration camp. His son, Daniel, once considered a prodigy, sees his early academic brilliance sidelined by drugs and squandered on political activism in the counterculture. Solomon's other son, Nathan, a thirty-eight-year-old doctor completing his residency, has long been caught up in the tragedy of his father's and brother's lives. Nathan also nurses his own share of resentment, anger, and guilt, which he pours out in sessions with a psychiatrist he despises. When Daniel is murdered in what was likely a drug deal gone wrong, Solomon and Nathan travel to San Francisco to recover Daniel's cremated remains. Startling and life-changing discoveries await them in the city where Daniel died as they uncover important persons and events from the dead man's life, which leads the pair to a better understanding of their own history and relationship.
Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman called Bearing the Body a "darkly perceptive, transcendently rapturous drama of devastation and renewal." Havazelet's "shifting voice is thoroughly convincing, his grammar and syntax a near-perfect fit at every turn," observed Craig Brandhorst, writing in the Southern Review. Havazelet "knows how to make his fiction a true mirror," remarked Susan Salter Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. "There is a thoroughness to the descriptions of his characters' thoughts, actions and conversations that mimics real time," Reynolds continued. "Their voices seem to echo, as if they were being watched not just by their omniscient narrator but also by wise men and women down through generations, gods and goddesses, pillars of civilization." The story is "charged with the material of real life, and its characters demand, and earn, the reader's empathy," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Like Never Before, p. 198; July 1, 2007, Donna Seaman, review of Bearing the Body, p. 25.
Books, August 25, 2007, "Survival Skills: A Richly Layered Novel of Pain and Loss, Love and Reconciliation," p. 5.
Commercial Appeal, December 13, 1998, Corey Mesler, review of Like Never Before, p. H4.
Houston Chronicle, February 7, 1999, Harvey Grossinger, review of Like Never Before, p. 23.
Judaism, winter, 2000, D. Mesher, "The Malamud Factor: Recent Jewish Short Fiction," p. 120.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1988, review of What Is It Then between Us?, p. 307; August 15, 1998, review of Like Never Before, p. 1140; July 1, 2007, review of Bearing the Body.
Library Journal, June 1, 1988, Marcia Tager, review of What Is It Then between Us?, p. 140; October 1, 1998, Judith Kicinski, review of Like Never Before, p. 137; June 1, 2007, Jim Coan, review of Bearing the Body, p. 110.
Los Angeles Times, November 1, 1998, Michael Frank, review of Like Never Before, p. 6; August 26, 2007, Susan Salter Reynolds, "Mirror Men," review of Bearing the Body, p. R5.
New York Times, April 30, 1988, Michiko Kakutani, review of What Is It Then between Us?, p. 18; October 14, 1998, Richard Bernstein, review of Like Never Before, p. E8.
New York Times Book Review, August 7, 1988, Richard Rosen, "Comic Relief from Existential Dread," p. 18; June 18, 1989, review of What Is It Then between Us?, p. 34; November 1, 1998, Craig Seligman, review of Like Never Before, p. 11; December 6, 1998, review of Like Never Before, p. 68; October 31, 1999, review of Like Never Before, p. 40; August 26, 2007, Francine Prose, "Final Score," review of Bearing the Body.
Oregonian, November 23, 1998, Jeff Baker, interview with Ehud Havazelet.
Publishers Weekly, April 8, 1988, review of What Is It Then between Us?, p. 77; April 14, 1989, review of What Is It Then between Us?, p. 65; August 24, 1998, review of Like Never Before, p. 45; April 30, 2007, review of Bearing the Body, p. 134.
San Francisco Chronicle, August 13, 2007, Anthony Giardina, "Holocaust Survivor Deals with Son's Death in Bearing the Body," p. E2.
Southern Review, summer, 1999, Randall Curb, "When Is a Story More than a Story? A Fiction Chronicle," p. 608; autumn, 2007, Craig Brandhorst, review of Bearing the Body, p. 969.
Tikkun, January, 2000, review of Like Never Before, p. 82.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 25, 2007, Sarah F. Gold, "Survival Skills: A Richly Layered Novel of Pain and Loss, Love and Reconciliation," review of Bearing the Body, p. 5.
University of Oregon Web site,http://www.uoregon.edu/ (January 1, 2008), biography of Ehud Havazelet.