Pollack, Eileen 1956-
Pollack, Eileen 1956-
Born August 26, 1956, in Liberty, NY; daughter of Abraham J. (a dentist) and Wilma (a teacher and homemaker) Pollack; married Tom Glaser (a biologist), July 21, 1985 (divorced, 1999); children: Noah Elias. Ethnicity: "White, Jewish." Education: Yale University, B.S. (summa cum laude), 1978; attended University of East Anglia, 1978-79; University of Iowa, M.F.A. (with honors), 1983. Religion: Jewish.
Home—Ann Arbor, MI. Office—Department of English, 3187 Angell Hall, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003. Agent—Marie Massie, Lippincott, Maddie, McQuilkin, 80 5th Ave., Ste. 1101, New York, NY 10011. E-mail—[email protected].
Concord Monitor, Concord, NH, staff writer, editor, and columnist, 1980-83; Tufts University, Medford, MA, lecturer, 1985-89; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, preceptor, 1989-90; Tufts University, lecturer in English, 1990-94; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, senior lecturer and director of undergraduate creative writing program, 1994-99, assistant professor, 1999-2004, associate professor of English, 2004—, John Rich Professor and fellow of Institute for the Humanities, 2000-01, Zell Director of MFA program in creative writing, 2007—. Emerson College, visiting assistant professor, 1993-94; lecturer at other educational institutions, including University of Iowa, Brown University, Wellesley College, Cranbrook Center for the Arts, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Ludington Writers Conference on the Novel, and Interlochen Academy for the Arts; judge of writing competitions; conference participant; gives public readings, including radio broadcasts.
Marshall fellow in England, 1978-79; first prize from playwriting contest, Performing Arts of Norfolk (England), 1979, for The Deliverance of Doubting Thomas; award for best news story, Associated Press of New England, 1980; fiction-writing fellowship, Michener Foundation, 1983-84; award for best fiction of the year in Literary Review, 1986; resident fellow, MacDowell Colony, 1987; Pushcart Prize, Pushcart Press, 1991, for "Past, Future, Elsewhere," and 1995, for "Milk"; Denise and Mel Cohen Award for best fiction of the year, Ploughshares, 1992, for "Neversink;" fellow of National Endowment for the Arts, 1993; grants from Massachusetts Cultural Council, 1994, and Rona Jaffe Foundation, 1996; fellow at Sweetland Writing Center, 1998; Lawrence Foundation Award, best fiction of the year in Michigan Quarterly Review, 1999.
Day Carts and the Malevolent Deity (full-length play), first produced as a staged reading in Concord, NH, by Higate Productions, 1980.
The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories (includes "The Vanity of Small Differences," "Past, Future, Elsewhere," and "Neversink"), Delphinium Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Whisper Whisper Jesse, Whisper Whisper Josh: A Children's Book about AIDS, illustrated by Bruce Gilfoy, Advantage/Aurora Publications (Cambridge, MA), 1992.
Paradise, New York (novel), Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1998.
In the Mouth: Stories and Novellas, Four Way Books (New York, NY), 2008.
Also author of other plays, including "The Deliverance of Doubting Thomas," 1979. Work represented in anthologies, including The New Generation, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1987; The Whole Story: Editors on Fiction, Bench Press, 1995; and God: Stories, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1998; Imagine What It's Like: A Literature and Medicine Anthology, edited by Ruth Nadelhaft, Maine Humanities Council, 2006; and Best American Short Stories 2007, edited by Stephen King and Heidi Pitlor, Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Contributor of short stories, essays, articles, and reviews to periodicals, including SubTropics, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, Washington Post, Boston Globe, St. Petersburg Times, and Life.
In Eileen Pollack's first book, The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories, the characters struggle to define themselves, to overcome whatever may be in their path, and they continually learn about themselves and those around them. Whether an idealistic female reform rabbi in an Orthodox congregation, an adolescent girl hiding in her basement while the infamous 1969 Woodstock rock concert blares around her, or even a genetics researcher afraid of having imperfect children, the protagonists examine their lives and themselves, trying to understand who they are and how they are connected to those around them. Pollack's characters all "care intensely about their quests to lead moral lives in an imperfect world. It is to the author's credit that we empathize with them and cheer them in their struggles," wrote Faye Moskowitz in the Washington Post. Other reviewers offered similar responses to the volume. "Pollack's lush style is stunning, but not overdone," commented Haviva Krasner-Davidson in the Jewish Exponent, adding that "reading her is like taking a trip to an exotic island: It's simultaneously breathtaking, relaxing, fun and enlightening." New York Times Book Review contributor Marianne Gingher called the title story "insightful, funny and humane," and concluded that The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories is "a varied and energetic book of stories."
Pollack's novel Paradise, New York relates the story of Lucy Appelbaum, a nineteen-year-old Jewish woman who leaves college in order to oversee a hotel, called the Garden of Eden, owned by her parents and badly in need of repair. Pollack's other characters in Paradise, New York include Thomas Jefferson, the hotel's black handyman with whom Lucy falls in love; two homosexual chefs employed by the hotel; Lucy's racist grandmother; a group of elderly communists; and Lucy's brother and sister-in-law. Events lead to Lucy's increased wisdom, though she must leave the town of Paradise to fully experience the world. Fred Leebron in Ploughshares stated, "In her first novel,… Pollack … deftly evokes the entertaining and complex life of a Catskills hotel, as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish woman coming of age both spiritually and sexually." A writer for Kirkus Reviews called the novel "a finely crafted, if underpowered, first novel." Though a writer for Publishers Weekly noted that some parts of the novel show "an unholy goulash of good intentions gone awry," the reviewer said that "Lucy's concern for the family business gives the novel moving passages," adding that Paradise, New York is "warmly observed." Leebron concluded, "Despite its lapses into glib comedy and explicit philosophizing, it is an ambitious and fully realized novel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Jewish Exponent, May 8, 1992, Haviva Krasner-Davidson, review of The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1991, review of The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories; October 1, 1998, review of Paradise, New York, p. 1404.
New York Times Book Review, February 23, 1992, Marianne Gingher, review of The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories, p. 25; February 28, 1999, review of Paradise, New York, p. 17.
Ploughshares, January 15, 1992, review of The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories; spring, 1999, Fred Leebron, review of Paradise, New York, p. 190.
Publishers Weekly, August 30, 1991, review of The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories; October 19, 1998, review of Paradise, New York, p. 54.
Washington Post, March 5, 1992, Faye Moskowitz, review of The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories, section D, p. 9.
Washington Post Book World, January 3, 1999, review of Paradise, New York, p. 6.