matthue roth







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Open Mics & Matisyahu

Gearing up for the 92Y Open Mic, and I'm just nervous -- half that nobody's going to come, and half that it will be mobbed. We actually did a really amazing open mic last year in the dead of winter -- 10 people showed up, and it turned into a tremendous verbal jam session between poems -- but the fact that Actual Amazing Author and Legendary Musician are both showing up makes me fret. Just praying.

matisyahu speaksSpeaking of praying: my interview with Matisyahu is up:

If the songs on "Shattered" veer in directions that are surprising to the artist's existing fans, "Light" abandons the path entirely. The first track, "Master of the Field," was released as a free download on Matisyahu's Web site. It treads on ground both familiar and new, with classic Chasidic (and, yes, Lubavitch) metaphors -- the titular master is a reference to the Jewish month of Elul, when the king comes out to greet his subjects on their territory. Musically, it borrows from the confines of his previous work (reggae-tinted keyboards, infectious pop hooks, a beatboxed transitional bridge) but a little before the two-minute mark, the song explodes into a totally different vein. It's not pop music, it's not experimental, but it manages to retain its catchiness while paring down to little more than a drum-and-bass beatbox and a chanted chorus.



Okay, ixnay on the Long Island action. I know it kind of sucks -- all of a sudden, the person who was going to give me a ride isn't giving me a ride, and it's two hours and a surprisingly expensive train ride.

back from Los Angeles. two red-eye flights in 24 hours can knock a boy unconscious...or at least play havoc with at least three of his five senses. it's weird to rebound from rock stardom right back into a day job (and by "right back," i mean plane, subway, office). los angeles was amazing -- there were the obligatory celeb sightings, a hotel room that i wish i'd remembered to photograph (the entire room was done in pale purple and white, and they'd wrapped 50 old distended books in matching jackets) and C.J. pulled up in his car and we recorded two new Chibi Vision songs in his car outside Steven Spielberg's mother's restaurant when the whole neighborhood went black. I was staring at a giant multicolored neon tower when the power finally went back on.

it was glorious.

I'm not Radiohead's biggest aficionado ever, but this site is doing a bunch to convince me. Perhaps because the mp3s are free (and I could buy several Radiohead albums for the price of the train ticket to Long Island), or it might just be my recent obsession with live albums (roots! mike doughty! i just love listening to people who are being listened to by an entire room of people; it's captivating and almost cultlike).

oh, and laura bush is looking into a book deal. but i thought she already had one.

art of the memoir: Live in Long Island

Back from LA, and tons of stories to tell. But first, here are details on my reading Wednesday:

322 New York Ave. Huntington Long Island


Find out what it takes to write and sell your life story from trained professionals who've actually done just that. Memoirists David Henry Sterry (best-selling author of Master of Ceremonies* and talent scout for Levine Greenberg literary agency), Jewish memoirist Matthue Roth (Yom Kippur Go-Go) and agent extraordinaire Arielle Eckstut (Putting Your Passion Into Print) will show you how to write and sell your memoir.

They will read from their memoirs. Then they will discuss the joys and the perils, the agony and the ecstasy of writing and selling the stories of your life. Making a narrative of events of your own life, dealing with issues of privacy and the lunacy of family, figuring out how to navigate the stormy seas of the publishing world, are all topics that will be bandied about. This will be followed by a Q&A session. All questions will be answered.

Genre Benders

matthue rothMy new Nextbook column is up, featuring Yoshie Fruchter's Pitom, NX2, Eprhyme, and everything else that's new and Jew.

Four years ago, Yoshie Fruchter came to New York and plunged into the avant-garde jazz scene that revolved around those clubs, watching local legends like Shanir Blumenkranz (who can coax just about any sound in the universe from a bass guitar) and multi-instrumentalist percussionist Kevin Zubek work their magic.

Now, they�re both in his backing band.

It�s hard to come up with the right word to describe Fruchter, who fronts the band Pitom, and whose debut record, named for the band, is available this month from John Zorn�s Tzadik Records. The album takes the characteristically absurdist and often improvisational jazz that Tzadik bands are known for and adds more than a measured dose of power-chord punk.


did you vote for this man?

I actually love staring at this picture and thinking, "This is the president-elect of the United States of America."

transitions of power

Welcome to the new world. In his last few months as a lame-duck president, Clinton declared a huge territory in Alaska to be a national park, and could therefore never be drilled or mined, and it was impossible to be overruled.

I'm kind of fearful for what Bush might do with *his* last few months in power. (Or maybe, like Judaism says, I should judge favorably -- he could always devote billions to cancer research or starving children.) And I'm kind of excited about Obama, and if any of the totally unreasonable superhuman powers we've girded him with over the past few months come true, maybe he'll be able to protect us from whatever madness Bush has in store.

Meanwhile: somebody should make a reality TV show about Osama Bin Laden's pacifist, cougar-dating, dreadlocked son, Omar Osama, who is asking for asylum in Spain. Spain? There doesn't seem to be any logical reason, except that, when I was researching Candy in Action, I discovered Spain has one of the most reliably all-night party junkets in the world.

She's 55, he's 27, and he really is a rebellious son. He says he's proud of his father's name, but keeps urging his father to "find another way." There should be some cracks to be made about how his new wife is old enough to be his mother, but considering his father has four wives and anywhere between 12 and 26 children, she's also old enough to be his sister -- which, at least theoretically, makes it less bad (or less hot, depending on your point of view).

losers and losers

Two new reviews of Losers! Mordy Shinefield in the Forward seems to like me ("charming," "idiosyncratic") but most of the review is spent discussing how I'm not like Philip Roth. Duh. I don't like Philip Roth, I've only gotten to the end of one of his books ("The Ghost Writer") -- and I finish almost any book I read -- the man he reminds me of the pedophile uncle I never had. When people ask if I'm related to the "famous Roth," I always pretend they're talking about David Lee. The review ends by saying that "The real point Roth is making in 'Losers' is that, like Jupiter Glazer, Judaism has gone mainstream," which I don't think has anything to do with the book -- the fact of Jupiter's Judaism is only mentioned twice, both times in reference to the Jewish Federation helping his immigrant parents find jobs, which I don't think is very hipster-Jewish at all.

The other review, in JVibe, is from someone who's 14 -- I love it when actual teenagers review teen books, since the "teen book" industry is like 90% people like me, who haven't been teenagers for a good long while, but still wish we were. "The book manages without a lot of plot or adventure to keep readers glued...What defines being a 'loser' isn't an environment, but an attitude." Rock.

The reading on Wednesday went pretty superbly. Katie Finn's "Top 8" is a Facebook book that manages to pull off the conceit nicely, and makes me question my the world's doubts about Aaron Sorkin's Facebook movie. And have you ever heard of Lauren Henderson? She's British and sassay as anything and I don't even know if that's the right page for her, but it does show her books. At one point, David the moderator encouraged us to go outside and start a rumble. At the time, I kind of froze because I wasn't sure whether the audience would have followed us out. But in retrospect, why would I have doubted it??

black tie in philadelphia

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, speaking at last night's Jewish Publication Society 120th Anniversary Banquet, could not constrain himself from talking about the topic that everyone else could barely constrain themselves from talking about: the Phillies.

Seriously: he got up to the microphone, and there wasn't even a pretense of his being more qualified to speak than the impressive assortment of professors, scholars, and philanthropists in the room (not to mention Norma Shapiro, the first female federal judge in the country), much less the expected "Wow, this is odd -- I'm speaking to a random roomful of Jews." No, sir: in his red tie and white shirt, Mayor Nutter said the exact thought everyone else had been trying to articulate all day: "How about those Phils, ladies and gentlemen. I can't believe it. The Phillies."

He paused, changed his approach, and then said something -- and that's when the profundity hit.

"It's not how much you get knocked down, it's how much you get back up. I think that's something that Philadelphians understand about their sports teams, and they understand it about their lives."

The entire night was a pretty spectacular spectacular. Not quite sure what to do, we stood around with glasses of wine in hand, trying to look at least medium-dignified to the half-full but growing crowd of people who seemed to be born into dignitariness. The weirdest part of these affairs, the rather formal ones where you don't know anyone, is by far the name badges. They're always printed in too-fine type, always on display in dimly-lit rooms, and they're always positioned over a part of the body that isn't really sociable to be looking at.

So I met people, wondering whether I was supposed to know them, finding out (relieved, and then intrigued) that the answer was no. And then someone came over and introduced herself, and it was Rena Potok, the Senior Acquisitions Editor, who I've been emailing with for a year, and who was quite abubble -- about new projects, the projects that were on display, and most of all about their new YavNet project, and JPS's forays into multimedia:

JPS and the Next 120 Years
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: tanakh society)

And then she introduced us to JT Waldman, who wrote and drew the amazing calligraphed comic version of Megillat Esther
He also just illustrated the intro to the book From Krakow to Krypton, which we kvelled about here -- and who Itta and I spent most of the evening hanging out with plotting evil schemes with productively socializing for work with. He runs JPS's aforementioned YavNet blog, who ran a pretty kicking Jewish-superhero popularity contest for a while, although I don't know who won. Man, I hope they have another 120th celebration soon so I can ask him about that.

All told, it was a pretty remarkable evening. Much attention was lavished on the ever-useful JPS Tanakh, which they recently donated 10,000 copies of to the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as cute little editions (that I can't find pictures of) with pink, khaki, and -- get this -- a denim "jeans pocket" cover. The CosmoGirl Bible it is not (for which we should probably be grateful) but it's a pretty cool way to carry around your daily helping of Torah, Writings and Prophets. Those were one of the focuses of the well as their "Tagged Torah" project, which aims to go beyond Mechon Mamre as the most useful and interactive online Bible.

Retrospectives can usually be a useful euphemism for times when you don't want to say eulogy. They're another thing entirely when a retrospective is an excuse to talk about great new things to come....and that, I think, is what last night's JPS reception really was.

eye candy

Not to get too self-promulgating, but if you're in New York, show up at the New York Public Library, Jefferson Market Branch in the West Village tonight -- I'll be reading from my new novel Losers, and a host of other people will be appearing, including Coe Booth, whose book Tyrell the New York Times couldn't get enough of, and David Levithan, who wrote this little movie about two kids and an infinite playlist.

by greg holm

And the fabulous Greg Holm has a new website! Just in case you don't believe how gorgeous it is, see above. And play a Where's Waldo to find the photo of me (hint: it isn't as hard as Waldo).

Noah, Meet Youtube

First of all: come to my reading at the New York Public Library tomorrow! New book! Free zine! What else do you need?

G-dcast has been going off the hook lately. First there was the wave of Jewish blogs raving, then the New York Times. Now it seems to have led to erudite observations about why Jewish education turned out the way it is, and what the potential for Torah education could be.

Not to ego-ize too much, but I'm excited.

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candy in action: a novel by matthue roth ... supermodels, kung fu, and a free soundtrack.