Rosenbaum, Thane 1960-
ROSENBAUM, Thane 1960-
PERSONAL: Born January 8, 1960 in New York, NY; children: daughter, Basia Tess. Ethnicity: Jewish. Education: University of Florida, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1981; Columbia University, M.P.A. 1983; University of Miami, J.D., 1986.
ADDRESSES: Home—412 West 110th St., Ste. 32, New York, NY 10025. Offıce—Fordham University School of Law, 140 West 62nd St., New York, NY 10023. Agent—c/o Author's Mail, 7th Floor, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Lawyer, educator, lecturer, and author. University of Miami, editor-in-chief, L.R. Law; U.S. District Judge Eugene P. Spellman, Florida, clerk, 1986-87; Debevoise & Plimpton, law associate, 1987-91; Fordham University School of Law School, law professor of human rights, legal humanities and law. New School University, New York, on staff in writing and humanities program, 1995-2000. Literary editor, Tikkun, 1996-2002.
AWARDS, HONORS: Edgar Lewis Wallant Prize, best book of Jewish-American fiction, for Elijah Visible, New York Public Library award for best books for teenagers, 2002-03.
Elijah Visible: Stories, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Second Hand Smoke: A Novel, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
The Golems of Gotham, HarperCollins Publishers (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: "It is rare to find a singular voice—Jewish or otherwise—that can speak to so many different aspects of art, culture and politics, particularly as it relates to American Jews. Thane Rosenbaum has such a voice." Thus begins Rosenbaum's profile on the Harry Walker Agency Web site. Rosenbaum, a former New York lawyer who gave up a lucrative practice to become an essayist and human rights law professor, is now an award-winning, critically acclaimed novelist.
Rosenbaum grew up in Miami, Florida, the only child of Holocaust survivors who died when he was young. He is among what Gavin McNett called, in the New York Times, "the small but influential movement of second-generation Holocaust writers, the children of survivors." Alan L. Berger, reviewing Elijah Visible for Tikkun, wrote, "What these and other second-generation works share is their search for a way of bearing witness to the Holocaust and to their authors' own identity." Berger also explained that many children of Holocaust survivors believe that the most important event in their lives occurred before they were born. Many, therefore, have adopted the responsibility of testifying on behalf of their parents' generation, particularly through "helping professions such as law, medicine, psychology, psychiatry, social work, and teaching. . . . The issue for the second generation is thus not how to remember the Holocaust, but how to transform their legacy into memory and deeds that will help move the world away from genocidal modes of thought." Rosenbaum's background, writings, and lectures provide an excellent example for Berger's hypothesis.
Elijah Visible, Rosenbaum's book of nine interlinked short stories, centers around young, yuppie Manhattan lawyer Adam Posner. In the first story, "Cattle Car Complex," the insomniac, claustrophobic Posner becomes stuck in a small, dark, airless elevator after hours where imagery of his parents being loaded into a cattle car and shipped to German concentration camps initiates a rage that borders on a fit. Through the intercom, Posner's Russian limousine driver and the building's Irish security guard seem not to understand what Posner means when he screams: "I don't believe there are any work camps! We won't be happy. We will die there! I can feel it!!"
A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote, "With savage irony, these impassioned stories bemoan secular Jews' fragmented families . . . as well as the chasm between generations that dulls recognition of the full enormity of the Holocaust." Marcie Hershman of Ploughshares said: "This is as vibrant and provocative a collection of short fiction as I've read in years. . . . Thane Rosenbaum . . . seems already an old hand at fiction, fashioning heartbreakingly astute stories out of labyrinths usually too dark, too steeply dangerous, too voracious and empty for most writers to navigate with much hope of safe arrival."
In Second Hand Smoke Rosenbaum creates the Miami and New York lawyer, Duncan Katz, who tracks down Nazi war criminals for a living. In the Jerusalem Report, Philip Graubart noted, "as for many in the second generation, the legacy of parental suffering is 'second hand smoke' in Rosenbaum's pungent phrase: The survivors' children did not experience the camps directly, yet are still poisoned by them." A reviewer for the Boston Globe called the novel "an expansive, challenging novel . . . vivid, colorful, singular." A reviewer for Booklist called the novel "a fierce, poignant, and mordantly funny novel."
In the Jewish Ledger Graubart wrote, "[Rosenbaum's] first two books were funny, inventive, brave, and well worth the read. But nothing could prepare us for what came next: The Golems of Gotham, a sprawling, tragic, comic, magical masterpiece." This novel features the Jewish mythical archetype the Golem, molded from mud and brought to life with prayer and ritual. The protagonist is fourteen-year-old Ariel, whose grandparents committed suicide during a temple service when her father, Oliver, was just a college student, and whose mother died when she was two years old. Concerned about her father, a successful mystery novelist with not only writer's block but a sort of "life" block, Ariel attempts to conjure up a golem to cure him, but she inadvertently produces eight ghosts—those of her grandparents and six other Holocaust survivors, all of whom committed suicide, unable to live with their past. These ghosts are well-known writers such as Primo Levi and Jerzy Kosinski, the conjured spirits of which transform Manhattan while attempting to heal Ariel and her father. This transformation takes the form of a rebellious Chagall painting come-to-life. A baby carriage appears to be wheeling itself around New York City's Upper West Side. Ariel, without a note of instruction or preparation, is able to play passionate klezmer music on a well-worn violin; water no longer rains from shower fixtures, forcing New Yorkers to take only baths; Yankee uniforms lose their stripes. Cigarettes can no longer be found at stores, newspaper stands, or vending machines. In the Buffalo News Mark Shechner observed, "The book seems a riotous marriage of bitter wisdom and urgent magic, with Rosenbaum's corrosive wit and pungent metaphors performing the service."
"The genius of the book is how Rosenbaum seamlessly combines the themes of rage and rescue . . . allowing one to live along side the other," wrote Graubart. Joe Hartlaub commented in Bookreporter. com: "Rosenbaum occasionally strays off of his narrative to editorialize. . . . Given the ultimate power of his writing, however, this is a minor quibble. Rosenbaum, overall, is reminiscent of Vonnegut at his best, dispensing narrative nuggets at will and providing haunting passages to be studied again and again. The Golems of Gotham is a feast to be taken slowly and carefully, and savored."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Second Hand Smoke, p. 1156; January 1, 2002, Michele Leber, review of The Golems of Gotham, p. 814.
Boston Globe, June 30, 2002, Liza Weisstuch, "Making Strange Magic in Manhattan."
Buffalo News, August 25, 2002, Mark Shechner, "Spirits and the City."
Denver Post, March 17, 2002, Eric Elkins, "A Tragicomic Holocaust Fable."
Jerusalem Report, May 6, 2002.
Jewish Standard, July 12, 2002, Curt Leviant, "Haunting Novel: Ghosts Walk in Magical Manhattan."
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2001, review of TheGolems of Gotham, p. 1575.
Library Journal, February 15, 1999, Christine Perkins, review of Second Hand Smoke, p. 185.
Miami Herald, March 3, 2002, Andrew Furman, "Summoning the Holocaust's Spirits."
New York Times Book Review, April 11, 1999, Gavin McNett, "Festival of Wrath," p. 367; June 9, 2002, Richard Lourie, "Payback," p. 31.
Ploughshares, fall, 1996, Marcie Hershman, review of Elijah Visible: Stories, p. 242.
Publishers Weekly, March 11, 1996, review of ElijahVisible, p. 42; January 18, 1999, review of Second Hand Smoke, p. 325; December 17, 2001, review of The Golems of Gotham, p. 62.
Tikkun, September-October, 1996, Alan L. Berger, review of Elijah Visible, p. 85; July-August, 2002.
Washington Post, March 18, 2002.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1997, Rita D. Jacobs, review of Elijah Visible, p.789.
Book Reporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (October 22, 2002), Joe Hartlaub, review of The Golems of Gotham.
Harry Walker Agency Web site,http://www.harrywalker.com/ (October 22, 2002), "Thane Rosenbaum."
Jewish Ledger Online,http://www.jewishledger.com/ (October 22, 2002), Philip Graubart, "The Golems of Gotham: A Sprawling Masterpiece."
Jewish Week Online,http://www.thejewishweek.com/ (October 22, 2002), "The Dirt on Golems."
Reading Group Guides,http://www.readinggroupguides.com/ (October 22, 2002), book description, The Golems of Gotham.