(Note to my Readers) Holly Rotman-Zaid is a real person, a friendly and vivacious woman whom I met at a local Chamber of Commerce breakfast. So, this letter isn’t creative writing. But after we met, I simply couldn’t remember her last name. European Jewish names are not normally hyphenated. They are already difficult enought to spell one at a time. If my last name was Katzman-Schechter, I imagine I’d spend all my time spelling it. All my time. So, I decided to call that woman I met Holly-Hyphen, which I think is a pretty cool name for anyone. Holly likes it, in any event.
There are other good reasons I have trouble remembering people’s names, but, well…that’s another story. In the meantime, read this one)
I’ve thought about how you seem to understand both the exoticness of what I do and the tremendous challenge of trying to make people realize what treasures exist in this too small store. Getting up every day of the week to wait in what is frequently a silent store gives credence to my alternative name for this place:
The Paper Prison: Can’t stay. Can’t leave. Jewish Purgatory.
On the other hand, now you have my first book. Like most people who don’t know me, you will be very surprised by what you learn about the bottom stratum of Chicago retail people and how on the edge they live. About how other people who believe they occupy loftier and more secure lives (as the devastating recent Recession has proven to be a fantasy) treat people whom they feel are lesser souls then they are.
I had hoped to be able to teach a class about creative writing, to show people who think they have to study other writers before they can sing their own songs. I had two years of college, left after unexpected and major cancer surgery and never took a class to learn what I believe is innate in some people, just as people who feel compelled to sing will often do it for free, just to be heard.
I believe some people are born storytellers, that it’s involuntary, that they must do that–record time in some comprehensible way–and then tell others about it. Storytellers capture time in verbal nets. They must, because sometimes there are words–ideas–that are too beautiful, too powerful, to let escape into the void.
Read my first book in order, even though the stories are not especially chronological. I intended for people to read it that way and to wonder about what will likely seem to be incomprehensible behavior. About two thirds of the way through the book, there is one story that answers that. My relentless motivation will fall into place after that. But once you find out why, you won’t like what you learn. True stories aren’t always so pretty.
There are nine completed books. I have also done all the cover design, photography and when there was no picture, I drew an illustration to solve that gap. My dream is to get my books into the Chicago school system, from middle school on up. After all, I’m preserving unique Chicago urban history that no one would know any other way, in a frank and often brutal first person narrative. Where’s the other guy who wrote a history of newsstands in the middle of the Twentieth Century? They’re all dead now, that’s where. I’m the relic.
Most people who read my stories online don’t scroll back very far. Try it. Besides the recently posted Sarah’s Bat Mitzvah story, about the hard death and unexpected rebirth of one of America’s last back-issue magazine stores, read about friendship among immigrant criminals in Joy’s Diamond Ring if you want to learn more about me and my often silent universe.