Russell Baker sat in a club chair in a stuffy, wood-paneled den with a fireplace as he eruditely introduced episodes of Masterpiece Theatre. A similar setting—club chair and fireplace, anyway—seemed appropriate for my West Village neighbor Deametrice Eyster's reading from "Fragments of My Father," Chapter 11 of Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush. It's the same section that Eyster, a writer of poetry and short stories, read before a live audience at the "Bobby on Beaver Street" event in mid-December.
Here in Eyster's cozy apartment—far brighter than Baker's dim redoubt—she spins the tale of how my father, "a true believer in free enterprise," set out to become the "anal-lube king of South Florida."
Though you'd never hear such a story on Masterpiece Theatre, some readers of Bobby in Naziland have called the book "a masterpiece" in its own right. And for that I thank them.
The next Bobby in Naziland event is at 7 P.M., Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Books & Books in Coral Gables.
Since my memoir Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush was published in September, I've done a number of readings (with more to come) at bookstores, a temple, and at private events. Most of these readings were followed by Q&A sessions, and one question that people have asked at almost every event is: Why that title?
A cousin who'd read the book and then invited me to speak to her book club told me, "I love the book but I hate the title. If I were your publisher, I'd make you change it."
I've seen similar sentiments posted online. One person said a generic title, like A Jewish Childhood, would have been better.
I've lived with Bobby in Naziland for years and the title stuck—because it's a true and accurate title, and I like the allusion to Alice in Wonderland. To me, it's the only possible title.
In the above video, I read the beginning of Chapter 3, "Heil Irwin!" It's the passage I read last week, at the event "Bobby on Beaver Street." It's one of the passages I will read February 1, 2020, at Books & Books, in Coral Gables. And it's one of the many passages that should clarify why I chose Bobby in Naziland as the title.
The event was "Bobby on Beaver Street," the December 14 New York City launch of my memoir Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush, at the Killarney Rose.
Even though I spent seven years living (and dying) with the material as I wrote the book, practically memorizing parts of it, and going over every word and punctuation mark more times than I can count with a perfectionist editor and her microscope, the actors somehow made Bobby in Naziland sound fresh to my own ears. What a treat it was to watch such talented people bring to life the lost world of mid-20th-century Brooklyn!
The audience seemed so caught up in what they were witnessing, most of them put aside their 21st-century technology and simply watched, like people used to do in the 20th century. Consequently, only one actor, Susan Barrett, was recorded on video. But that video says it all, and you can watch it, above.
The next Bobby in Naziland event: 7 P.M., Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Books & Books in Miami.
"Mid 20th Century Flatbush as seen through the eyes of a Jewish boy whose bigoted dad liberated a Nazi death camp. Bobby in Naziland is a darkly funny coming of age story that many people can appreciate now, of all times." —Lesley Abravanel of the Miami Herald on Twitter
"The writing is fluid and poetic. I loved this book. It was hard to put down." —Jen Senko, filmmaker, The Brainwashing of My Dad
"The style and voice – matter-of-fact, witty – deliver [Rosen's] portrait of life growing up in Flatbush with great charm. He reminded me of Philip Roth in Portnoy's Complaint or J D Salinger and Catcher in the Rye." —Erotic Review
"I think of [Bobby in Naziland] as being in the realm of Brighton Beach Memoirs, but more inner-referenced, more emotional, and with characters who are more believable than Neil Simon's. I love this book." —Nunzio Adorato
"Childhood is a kind of fantastic wilderness that you gratefully leave behind forever, and so it goes (mostly) untold, unstudied. That a book like Bobby in Naziland does do some of the telling and studying I think is admirable. Nothing is prettified and the detail is thick.... Bobby in Naziland makes a real, if belated, contribution to postwar Jewish-American literature." —Mad Shopper
Please do stop by the Killarney Rose at 7 P.M., Saturday, December 14, and listen to some very talented actors, writers, and musicians, including Susan Barrett, Deametrice Eyster, Joe Gioco, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Byron Nilsson, Laralu Smith, and myself read from Bobby in Naziland. Find out why critics (for the most part) have turned thumbs up for Bobby.
The next Bobby in Naziland event is 7 P.M., Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Books and Books in Miami.
One afternoon in the autumn of 2006, after working on a book for several hours, I closed my laptop and went out for a 5.3-mile walk—10,000 steps. Heading downtown from Soho, I had no destination in mind.
Walking, I found, was like meditation—it cleared my head and relaxed me. Also, as often happened on these walks, the solution to whatever writing problem I'd been struggling with would pop into my head. I always carried pen and paper.
On that late afternoon in early October, I was thinking that I needed a catchier title for my new book. The working title, "A History of Modern Pornography," sounded too academic. For the five years that I'd been writing it, I'd failed to come up with a suitable title that encompassed all of what the book was about: an examination through a pornographic lens of late-20th-century capitalism and politics.
Wandering through a warren of narrow, twisting streets near the Battery, lost in the reverie of a daydream, I suddenly stopped and glanced up at the street sign.
I was on the corner of Beaver and Broad.
Oh my God, I thought, that's it! That's the title of my book: Beaver Street! It's perfect. The street not only intersects with Wall Street, the beating heart of the capitalist system, but beaver (as I once explained to an inquisitive French woman) is commonly used American slang for female genitalia.
I also knew that I had to have my book party on Beaver Street. So I walked the length of the street, from Pearl to Broadway, searching for an appropriate venue. The only place that seemed like a possibility was the Killarney Rose, a bar at 80 Beaver Street. I walked in and discovered the upstairs lounge, which had the cozy feel of a private club. It was an ideal place for a book party.
All I had to do was finish writing Beaver Street and get it published. That took six more years. But on June 16, 2012, I did, indeed, have the launch party in the upstairs lounge of the Killarney Rose. And thus was born "Bloomsday on Beaver Street," a well-attended event celebrating literary books that had been branded pornography, like James Joyce's Ulysses and, of course, Beaver Street. The event went so well, we did it again the following year.
This year, at 7 P.M., Saturday, December 14, I and a talented troupe of professional actors, musicians, and writers will return to the upstairs lounge of the Killarney Rose to celebrate the publication of my new memoir, Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush.
The cast, which includes Susan Barrett, Deametrice Eyster, Joe Gioco, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Byron Nilsson, Laralu Smith, and me, will read select passages from the book. I hope you can join us for a night of Bobby on Beaver Street. The event is free and you can find the invitation here.
MC Byron Nilsson delivers the opening monologue at Bloomsday on Beaver Street, June 16, 2012.