Wisconsin Public Radio will be reading The Mathematician’s Shiva for a half hour every weekday at 12:30 PM beginning February 29th and ending March 18th. The readings will also be available online for a week or two after. Thank you, WPR! Here’s the link:
I had a fun time at the Wisconsin Book Festival. People were gracious and friendly, plus I got a nostalgic taste of Babcock Hall ice cream (and a drink at still-the-same Nick’s). I found out that The Mathematician’s Shiva will be aired on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Chapter A Day over a three week period late in 2016; my mother would be ecstatic. I continue to make tiny changes in my next novel, Among the Righteous, which I’ll be giving to friends and family in early November and to my agent sometime around Thanksgiving. I hope he doesn’t think the new book is a turkey, haha. I’m very proud of this book.
I spent three months pretty much saying no to all requests for public speaking so that I could make headway on my next novel. That turned out to be a great idea. At August’s end I was 95% done with a decent draft. Toward the end of the month, I did make a few local appearances at book clubs. It’s always good to hear what avid readers say about books, especially when they’re not talking about mine! I learn a lot. I did some Skype sessions with out-of-town book clubs as well and planned a few fall trips to talk about both literary fiction and TMS.
TMS is now one year old. It’s been a happy and healthy baby that has given me lots of joy. It was named a finalist for Hadassah Magazine’s Ribalow Prize and because of TMS, I’m on the shortlist for the Anne and Robert Cowan Writer’s Award. Most of my days are spent obsessing about the novel I’m currently working on. I am very happy with how it’s turning out and am crossing my fingers that it will be sold to a publisher in a few months.
I keep working on my next novel, which has the working title Among the Righteous, and am on track to have a version ready for partial viewing (for family and maybe even a friend or two) in October. For me novel writing isn’t an angst-filled thing. It’s serious work that is often emotionally satisfying and it’s something I do at a rate of about 1000 words a day.
I received my comp copies of the commercial audiobook of The Mathematician’s Shiva and it was a pleasant surprise to hear the words being read aloud by trained actors. I hope people enjoy listening to the CD or MP3 on their car trips to wherever. I’ll come out of my (productive) isolation chamber a bit at the end of August, when I’ll be talking to some book groups locally and via FaceTime about TMS. I’ll be at the Palo Alto Library in September and I’ll do some traveling related to TMS in October, November and maybe December. It looks like I’ll be in Wisconsin, Seattle, Vancouver, and New York City and I’ll post dates in a couple of weeks. TMS was named an Indie Next Summer Reading Group pick by the American Booksellers Association, which makes me very happy. It’s also a finalist for an award that, if she were still around, my mom would be crossing her fingers about big time.
This month I’ve been focused on making progress on my next novel, and slowly but surely I’m getting there. I hope to have a version good enough to start showing people in October. I haven’t been a complete hermit, though. Last month, I went to Jerusalem to do some research for this new book (it’s a comedy that takes place in the US, Poland, and Jerusalem and focuses on a community of Righteous Gentiles who lived in Israel in the 1990s). I’ve been doing phone sessions and Skype sessions with book clubs who are reading TMS. I went to the American Library Association’s annual meeting, where I gave a talk (see right) and signed a couple hundred copies of TMS. Thank you, librarians, for laughing at my jokes and giving my wife a round of applause (she deserved it). Our local paper, the Palo Alto Weekly, printed a very sweet article about TMS and me. I’ve been helping the audio book narrators of TMS with pronunciations of all those foreign words and math terms. The commercial audio version will be available through Tantor Media in July. The Library of Congress version for the sight impaired will be available in the fall (I’m guessing). The Mathematician’s Shiva won its final (I think) award this month, an Outstanding Achievement Award (one of 10 books honored) from the Wisconsin Library Association. Comic novels usually don’t get honors of any sort. They are also hard to get published. I feel like I’ve won the book lottery in a lot of ways.
I’ll be at the American Library Association annual meeting in SF this Sunday, June 28th. I’ll be giving a talk at the 7:30 AM ALA Literary Tastes Breakfast and will be signing giveaway copies (maybe the newest printing with the new jacket copy and JBC award medal on the cover) at the Penguin booth at 11:30 AM.
For the holiday season, I’m going to a few Bay Area stores on a regular basis and signing stock copies. Please check with the store beforehand to make sure they have a copy left. If they’ve run out, just tell them to call me and I’ll go sign some more ASAP.
In Palo Alto: Books Inc. in Town and Country Shopping Center
In SF: Booksmith on Haight Street.
In Pleasanton: Towne Center Books on Main Street
Books Inc. in Mountain View, Book Passage in Corte Madera, and Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley may also still have some signed copies available.
In the print version, my book is below a picture of a woman with tomatoes on her head. Fortunately, there are no rotten tomatoes in the review!
THE MATHEMATICIAN’S SHIVA
By Stuart Rojstaczer
Penguin, paper, $16.
Rojstaczer’s first novel and its narrator — the atmospheric scientist Alexander Karnokovitch, known as Sasha — are also haunted by the newly dead: Sasha’s mother, Rachela, who dies of cancer at the novel’s opening. Rachela was a world-famous mathematician, and so her shiva is attended not only by family and friends but also by her fellow mathematicians, who descend upon Madison, Wis., partly to discover if Rachela has left behind the lucrative solution to the (real-life) Navier-Stokes Millennium Prize problem. This is a full — sometimes overfull — novel, but you can never really complain about a book being too alive, too curious, too alert, too true to itself. Sasha is the key: Not only does he have a fine, self-deprecating sense of humor, he’s also allowed his humanizing flaws. The first time he meets his long-lost daughter and granddaughter, for instance, his response is unsentimental and decidedly non-paternal: “My daughter’s name was Andrea. My granddaughter was Amy. Pleasant names both. Easy to pronounce.” The novel works for the same reason the humor does: It is smart, and brutally honest. Late in the narrative, as the shiva winds down and the visiting mathematicians make one last brainy sprint to discover the solution to the famous math problem, Sasha rants about how Americans treat any show of intelligence as a display of bad taste. If he’s right — and he is — then “The Mathematician’s Shiva” is in very bad taste, and all the better for it.
It’ll be in the NYT Book Review on November 2nd. I’ll post it then and I’m grateful beyond words.
Truly unexpected, unlikely and amazing. It’s been in the top 50 for four out of the last five weeks.