Better Than a Birthday
In honor of the publication of my story “Mitzvah” in The New Yorker, a few words about how incredible this experience is for an uncool writer like me | Non-Fiction | Canned soup
Now that we know each other a little better, I feel I can come clean: short-story writers are the lepers of the literary world. While novelists dream of winning a Nobel or a Booker, essayists have visions of waking up to find they’ve turned into Malcolm Gladwell or Yuval Noah Harari, and poets fantasize that Paul Simon or Billie Eilish have one too many drinks and set their poems to music, short-story writers have a slightly more humble dream: getting a story in The New Yorker.
It's not that there aren’t lots of other fantastic outlets to publish in. It’s just that it always somehow feels a little bit more momentous to be in The New Yorker. The whole process of working on the story, editing, recording an audio version, doing an interview to accompany the piece, and seeing the PDF with a stunning illustration that lands in your inbox—it’s all done with efficiency, courtesy and friendliness that make you feel like a guest in some parallel universe in which short stories are the most important thing in the world. In fact, my New Yorker publications are preserved in my memory alongside meaningful life-events like my bar-mitzvah, my honeymoon, and winning the Caméra d'Or at Cannes with Shira.
To celebrate the latest story coming out last week, I’d like to look back on the three most meaningful pieces I’ve had in the magazine, and hope there might be a few more in my future.
1. “Creative Writing”: this was not only my first New Yorker story, but involved a guy who suspects his wife is cheating on him with a stray cat.
2. “Tell Me A Story With A Happy Ending”: very few good things happened to me in 2014, and one of the saddest was when the Palestinian-Israeli writer Sayed Kashua left Israel. At the height of the depressing Gaza War that year, Sayed and I struck up a correspondence, and I even came up with a “three-state solution” for him—a notion that remains fictional, although I still believe it could work.
3. “Fly Already”: every time Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker’s fiction editor, publishes one of my stories, it gains something. No matter how tightly I think it’s edited, she’ll always come up with a way to improve it. This story was initially called “Don’t Do It!,” but Deborah suggested renaming it with the much better “Fly Already,” which also became the title of my most recent shorty-story collection. In Hebrew, the story is still called “Don’t Do It,” simply because a literal translation of “fly already” into Hebrew is in idiom that means something like “fuck off.”