Laser, Michael 1954–

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Laser, Michael 1954–

PERSONAL: Born September 14, 1954, in Brooklyn, NY. Education: State University of New York at Binghamton, B.A., 1975; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1977.

ADDRESSES: Home—Montclair, NJ.

CAREER: Writer.


(Collector and editor, with Ken Goldner) Children's Rules for Parents, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Perennial Library (New York, NY), 1987.

The Rain (picture book), illustrated by Jeffrey Greene, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Old Buddy Old Pal (adult novel), Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 1999.

6-321 (middle-grade novel), Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.

Dark and Light: A Love Story (adult novel), Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS: Michael Laser once commented: "The Rain, my first published children's book, was born as a concept for a series of books. I thought one day, 'Why not write about the simplest, most beautiful things around us, in the most simple and beautiful language I can manage?' The first step was to note everything that the word 'rain' brought to mind. I soon found myself with an opening sentence, 'The rain fell on the city, the town and the forest,' and that sentence opened the door for three parallel rain-stories, which then of course had to come together, and their coming together turned into a nice surprise ending. It proved to be one of those rare writing experiences in which you set out with almost no idea where you'll end up … and luck (plus twenty years of diligent practice) carries you to the end of a story that feels whole and satisfying.

"6-321 represents an opposite writing experience. This book is intensely autobiographical and jams every memorable experience I had in elementary school into one tale of a timid boy going through sixth grade. Because I cared so much about these memories, my sense of what worked and what didn't was cloudy. A very intelligent editor asked for changes, and I put the book through several major revisions, turning what began as a kaleidoscopic epic into a more streamlined plot. Where The Rain took less than a month to write, 6-321, though less than 100 pages long, became a three-year project. There's very little left in the book that comes straight from life, but I think it works better now as a dramatic tale, thanks to the editor's suggestions."

Laser's first picture book, The Rain, captured critical attention for its poetic text celebrating the rejuvenating, uplifting pleasures of an autumnal rain as experienced by five people. In a prose style "almost as peaceful and steadily rhythmic as the autumn shower he lauds," observed a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, Laser depicts the effects of a sudden autumn rain on a man boarding a commuter train, on a woman grading papers in a town, on two children playing in a forest, and on an elderly man who lets the rain run down his bare face as he stands in a city street. Each is changed or inspired by the ordinary miracle of the rainfall, and in this way the author captures the "universality and wonder" of a natural event, Shelley Townsend-Hudson wrote in Booklist. "Laser's low-key look at one of the gifts of nature is the perfect antidote to the weather-hysteria of local TV news," Jeanne Clancy Watkins similarly observed in School Library Journal. Although some critics noted that the relentlessly quiet, nostalgic tone of the book might disqualify its usefulness in certain settings, its unusual perspective and what Townsend-Hudson called its "joyful … appreciation of nature" make it a good book to pull out for quiet one-on-one readings, others observed.

Laser is also the author of novels for adults. Old Buddy Old Pal, in which two longtime friends, Burt and Alan, reevaluate their relationship after the breakup of Alan's marriage gives Burt the push he needs to finally express the feelings he has had for his friend's wife. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented: "Deftly using flashbacks, this short novel proceeds at a smooth pace, with sharp observations and crisp dialogue."

Dark and Light: A Love Story relates the circumstances that bring together a lonely white workaholic computer programmer (Edmund) and a homeless black recovering alcoholic (Careese). Edmund offers Careese a place to live, and Careese provides Edmund with companionship. Within this arrangement, the players are able to share the anguish of absentee, estranged parenthood and to explore other mutual emotional needs. Inevitably the two are drawn toward an intimate relationship, which inevitably fails. Christine DeZelar-Tiedman noted in Library Journal that the book's approach to racial tensions was "brutally honest," and while a Publishers Weekly reviewer offered a mixed assessment of the story of Edmund and Careese, they did acknowledge that "moments in their relationship ring true."



Booklist, April 1, 1997, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of The Rain, p. 1338.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1997, review of The Rain, pp. 363-364.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1999, review of Old Buddy Old Pal, p. 474; July 1, 2006, review of Dark and Light: A Love Story, p. 651.

Library Journal, September 1, 2006, Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, review of Dark and Light, p. 137.

Publishers Weekly, April 7, 1997, review of The Rain, p. 91; May 10, 1999, review of Old Buddy Old Pal, p. 56; June 5, 2006, review of Dark and Light, p. 30.

School Library Journal, May, 1997, Jeanne Clancy Watkins, review of The Rain, pp. 102-103.