Schwarzschild, Edward 1964–
Schwarzschild, Edward 1964–
Born August 22, 1964. Education: Boston University, M.F.A.; Washington University, Ph.D. Religion: Jewish.
Office—Department of English, University at Albany, State University of New York, Humanities 339, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. Agent—Dorian Karchmar, William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]
Writer and educator. State University of New York at Albany, began as assistant professor of English, became associate professor of English and institute fellow of the New York State Writers Institute. Taught at Sweet Briar College.
Responsible Men (novel), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2005.
The Family Diamond: Stories, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including Southwest Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Story Quarterly, Moment, Tin House, Believer, Southwest Review, five chapters.com, jewcy.com, and Yale Journal of Criticism.
In addition to writing fiction, Edward Schwarzschild teaches writing and literature at the State University of New York at Albany. During Schwarzschild's early upbringing in Philadelphia, a literature-focused career seemed unlikely; his father, a salesman, discouraged him from entering sales, so the young Schwarzschild directed his attention toward becoming a doctor. "Medicine seemed the way to go," Dan Pine observed in the Jewish News Weekly, "but a stubborn artistic temperament kept getting in the way." Schwarzschild was a constant reader and writer of stories, and three abortive attempts to bring himself to take the medical school entrance exams finally convinced him that his true interests lay elsewhere. He earned a Ph.D. in American literature and an M.F.A. in creative writing four years later and devoted himself to life as a man of letters.
In Schwarzschild's debut novel, Responsible Men, salesman Max Wolinsky has returned to Philadelphia after a year in Florida to attend his son Nathan's bar mitzvah while still reeling from the breakup of his marriage to Nathan's mother, Sandy, who left him for the family gardener. Max is a salesman with dubious morals—his deals sometimes veer from unethical to outright criminal, though his own sense of honor dictates that he not physically harm anyone or leave them financially destitute—and shortly after arriving back in Philadelphia he concocts a scam to sell nonexistent real estate to a local couple. To his dismay, some unpleasant former associates want in on the action. In the meantime, Nathan has become a "responsible man" and finds himself joining a kosher Boy Scout group. Scoutmaster Mervyn Spiller has himself concocted a seemingly legitimate scheme to import cheap scout uniforms from China. When Max falls for local woman Estelle, he begins to question his life of dirty dealings and looks for a better way, which Spiller's business deal may provide. Somewhere, somehow, amidst the chaos, Max and Nathan have to come to terms with each other.
"Wrapped up inside this debut novel about a shady salesman is a warm tale of father-son reconciliation," observed a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. Booklist contributor Misha Stone noted that "Schwarzschild's accomplished, no-nonsense prose captures one family's attempt at responsibility and reconciliation." Other reviewers also had high praise for the novel. Writing in Entertainment Weekly, Melissa Rose Bernardo called Responsible Men a "marvelous debut novel." "From a complicated business deal to a teenager's first kiss, Schwarzschild works with the quiet authority of a master," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. "This is one terrific debut."
In his 2007 short story collection The Family Diamond: Stories, Schwarzschild presents tales set in and around Philadelphia and focusing on family, love, and loss. Some of the stories were inspired by Schwarzschild's grandparents and feature the characters Milly and Charlie. "My Bubbe [grandmother] was a huge influence on these stories when she was alive," the author told E.B. Solomont for an interview with American Jewish Life magazine. "When she was blind, I would send her cassette tapes of the stories so she could hear them." The author also said of his grandfather: "Zayde's different from Bubbe, but he would listen to the stories. He was always interested in writing and not a phone call would go by without him asking, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘What did you finish?’ ‘Is the new book done yet?’"
The Family Diamond contains nine stories, including "Drift," about a young mother who flees her dull life and husband in a stolen truck, goes to her ex-lover's restaurant, and is subsequently discovered there by her husband. Millie and Charlie appear in three stories, including a metaphysical tale in which the couple are in a retirement home but are amazed to discover that they appear to be growing younger. "The bonds of love are alternately tenuous and tensile in Schwarzschild's acutely observed and quietly affecting stories," wrote a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Lisa Rohrbaugh commented in the Library Journal that the author "has a hit with his second work; the writing is polished, well paced, and exceptional."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2005, Misha Stone, review of Responsible Men, p. 823.
Entertainment Weekly, April 8, 2005, Melissa Rose Bernardo, review of Responsible Men, p. 71.
Jewish News Weekly, May 6, 2005, Dan Pine, "Novelist Weighs Pros and Cons," profile of Edward Schwarzschild.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Responsible Men, p. 80; July 1, 2007, review of The Family Diamond: Stories.
Library Journal, August 1, 2007, Lisa Rohrbaugh, review of The Family Diamond, p. 78.
Publishers Weekly, January 24, 2005, review of Responsible Men, p. 218; May 14, 2007, review of The Family Diamond, p. 28.
American Jewish Life,http://www.ajlmagazine.com/ (June 12, 2008), E.B. Solomont, "The Bookshelf: Diamonds Are Forever," review of The Family Diamond.
Critical Pages,http://www.criticalpages.com/ (June 12, 2008), Hollis Seamon, review of The Family Diamond.
Edward Schwarzschild Home Page,http://www.edwardschwarzschild.com (July 14, 2005).
Jewish Book Council Web site,http://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/ (June 12, 2008), Michal Malen, review of The Family Diamond.
State University of New York at Albany Web site,http://www.albany.edu/ (July 14, 2005), biography of Edward Schwarzschild.