Sher, Ira G. 1970-

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SHER, Ira G. 1970-

PERSONAL:

Male. Born January 21, 1970. Education: University of Houston, M.F.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster—Free Press, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

CAREER:

Writer.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Pushcart Prize finalist; Best American Mystery Stories finalist.

WRITINGS:

Gentlemen of Space (novel), Free Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Also contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Chicago Review and Gettysburg Review.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

A book about the Singer Sewing Company and the rise of motels in America.

SIDELIGHTS:

Georgie Finch narrates the story of his father Jerry's ill-fated trip to the moon in Ira G. Sher's debut novel of a space-time that never was, Gentlemen of Space. Jerry Finch, a high school science teacher in Florida, wins a national essay contest, the prize a chance to accompany famed astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the United States' last mission to the moon. As Sher relates in his fictional account, the Finch's housing complex soon becomes a playground for well-wishers, onlookers, and the media as Jerry's wife worries and frets, and stress begins to affect the family while Mr. Finch prepares for his trip.

All goes well at the beginning, and Jerry Finch blasts off with his astronaut buddies. He bounces around on the Moon's surface, collects Moon rocks, and becomes a national hero and media celebrity back on Earth. But when Armstrong and Aldrin return, Finch is not with them; he was lost during an exploration mission. The nation and community plunge into mourning, and an around-the-clock vigil is undertaken at the Finch's housing complex. The astronauts refuse to remove their space suits until Finch is located. Inexplicably, nine-year-old Georgie Finch begins receiving telephone calls from his father, who is apparently still on the moon, waxing philosophic and describing the wonders of space. When it is discovered that Jerry Finch left his sixteen-year-old babysitter pregnant, however, public opinion about him begins to change, leaving narrator Georgie to cope with loss on many levels, and to "deal with his father's infidelity by extrapolating from his imagination rather than from the truth," commented David A. Berona in Library Journal.

Sher's Gentlemen of Space "is a beautiful, eloquent first novel that dares one to use clever phrases like 'rising star' and 'out of this world,'" commented Brendan Driscoll in Booklist. Anthony Greenberg, writing in Book, called Gentlemen of Space a "luminous first novel" and described the story as "beguiling, strange, and ultimately beautiful." Reviewer Laird Hunt, writing in Review of Contemporary Fiction, observed that the odd events of the novel are a projection of young Georgie's grief and anger at his father, and that the depiction is "beautifully handled, carefully paced, and freighted with mystery. Gentlemen of Space is one of those books you wish the author had found a way not to end." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that the "novel is an original, haunting twist on a story of childhood loss."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Book, January-February, 2003, Adam Langer, "The New Father: Ira Sher," p. 45; May-June, 2003, Anthony Greenberg, review of Gentlemen of Space, pp. 82-83.

Booklist, March 15, 2003, Brendan Driscoll, review of Gentlemen of Space, p. 1276.

Hollywood Reporter, June 9, 2003, Chris Barsanti, review of Gentlemen of Space, p. 26.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2003, review of Gentlemen of Space, p. 175.

Library Journal, March 1, 2003, David A. Berona, review of Gentlemen of Space, p. 120.

Publishers Weekly, April 7, 2003, review of Gentlemen of Space, p. 46.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 2003, Laird Hunt, review of Gentlemen of Space, p. 127.*