Since Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush was published, I've reconnected with many people from my past, some of whom I hadn't seen in 50 years. Susan Barrett, who's appeared on such TV shows as 30 Rock, Shades of Blue, and Law & Order, is one of those people. She was the only actor captured live on video at "Bobby on Beaver Street," the December 14 New York launch event for Bobby in Naziland. You can see that performance here.
In the above video, shot in my apartment, Susan reprises her Beaver Street performance and tells the story of our first, serendipitous meeting. She then reads from the opening chapter of Bobby in Naziland, "The Goyim and the Jews," in which her brother is a character.
With my February 1 reading at Books & Books, the venerable literary mecca in Coral Gables, Florida, imminent, I've assembled what amounts to a videobook of excerpts from Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush. I hope the uninitiated will avail themselves of this opportunity to get acquainted with the book.
Below you'll find six videos of the actors (and myself) who read from Bobby in Naziland at the December New York launch event, "Bobby on Beaver Street," at the Killarney Rose. They are, in order of appearance, Susan Barrett, Robert Rosen, Deametrice Eyster, Byron Nilsson, Laralu Smith, and Joe Gioco.
Barrett was recorded live at the Killarney Rose. The other videos are "studio" takes of the excerpts we read at the event.
I hope you like what you hear and that you can come to Books & Books on February 1, at 7 P.M., to hear me read live and in person. This is my last scheduled event in the U.S. before moving on to European horizons in the late winter or early spring.
Suzi From the Block: From Chapter 1, "The Goyim and the Jews"
Bobby From the Block: From Chapter 3, "Heil Irwin!"
Deametrice From the Hood: From Chapter 11, "Fragments of My Father"
Byron From the Farm: From Chapter 13, "Cruel Affections"
Laralu From the Living Room: From Chapter 14, "In America..."
Joe From the TV: From Chapter 15, "The Flatbush Diet"
Joe Gioco, whom you've seen on TV in such shows as Gotham, Escape at Dannemora, and Mr. Robot, is one of the many actors who read from Bobby in Naziland at the New York launch event, "Bobby on Beaver Street," at the Killarney Rose, in December. He then agreed to reprise his performance on camera, in my apartment—in an effort to entice people to come to my next event, February 1, 7 P.M., at Books & Books, in Coral Gables, Florida.
His reading—all of Chapter 15, "The Flatbush Diet"—was perhaps the most challenging. For one thing, it was the longest reading. Having performed it myself, twice, at other events, I can say with assurance that it's a bit of a tongue-twister—and I wrote it.
As Joe explains in the above video, he's the first goy to attempt to read it out loud and in public, which means he didn't know how to pronounce a number of the foods mentioned in the chapter, like gribenes, matzoh brei, and pupick, a Yiddish word for a chicken's bellybutton.
But Joe is a living embodiment of the old saying, "There are no small parts, only small actors." Check out his performance as Judge Leo Tirone in Showtime's City on the Hill. In the episode "If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly," watch what he does with three words: Him… her… it?
It should come as no surprise, then, that Joe handled "The Flatbush Diet" like the professional he is. See for yourself in the video. It might be enough to make you want to come to Florida to hear me read, or at least buy the book, if you haven't already.
As I prepare for my February 1 Bobby in Naziland event at the venerable Books & Books, in Coral Gables, Florida, I've been learning from the actors I've been filming as they read select passages from my memoir. These "studio" readings are a reprise of their performances at the New York launch event "Bobby on Beaver Street," at the Killarney Rose last month.
This week, the lovely and talented Laralu Smith takes her turn before the camera. Best known for her work on stage, Laralu has appeared in NYC and regional productions of Up the Rabbit Hole (TNC), Major Barbara (Helluva Theater), A Bright Room Called Day (The Connelly), The Practice Child (Fringe NYC), Whisper (INTAR), Close Ties (Long Wharf), and Tartuffe (Capital Rep). She's also a regular performer with the Upright Citizen's Brigade Diversity Jam.
At an earlier Killarney Rose literary event, "Bloomsday on Beaver Street," Laralu read from the Molly Bloom section of James Joyce's Ulysses. That, I thought, well qualified her to read about another literary heroine—my mother, Eleanor Rosen.
In the above video, shot in my current living room, Laralu reads an excerpt from Chapter 14 of Bobby in Naziland, "In America...," part of which is set in another living room, in my Brooklyn household of long ago.
Byron Nilsson, a Renaissance man who resides with his family on Jollity Farm, in upstate New York, is a writer, actor, musician, beekeeper, gourmet chef, and my personal source of tech support for all things electronic.
I met him 25 years ago when I was editing a number of "adult" publications and needed a skilled writer to guide my readers to the burgeoning promised land of quality online erotica. Boy, was he ever the right man for the job!
Byron's experience contributing to the Swank magazine group was the inspiration for his play Mr. Sensitivity, performed at the 2009 New York Fringe Festival.
He was also the MC for the three literary events I've held at the Killarney Rose, on Beaver Street, in New York City. At the most recent one, "Bobby on Beaver Street," the December 14, 2019, launch of Bobby in Naziland, Byron read the opening of Chapter 13, "Cruel Affections." In the above video, Byron, from his CD-lined Jollity Farm office, reprises his reading.
The next Bobby in Naziland event is 7 P.M., Saturday, February 1, at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida. Yes, Super Bowl LIV is the next day, up the road at Hard Rock Stadium, in Miami Gardens. If you're in the area and looking for an alternative to a pre-Super Bowl party, please stop by. There's quite a bit of football in the book, and I'll talk about it if you insist.
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.
They came to The BookMark Shoppe, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on the night of November 9, by subway, automobile, bicycle, and foot to hear me read from Bobby in Naziland and answer questions about the book. It was the first time a bookstore within the five boroughs of New York City had held an event for one of my books. Among the audience were people I hadn't seen since high school and college; former Flatbushians; current Flatbushians; a fellow Headpress author; and a couple of complete strangers.
It was also the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass—the night Nazi leaders unleashed a series of pogroms against the Jewish population in Germany, the first act of what would become the Final Solution.
And though the Q&A that followed the reading inevitably turned to the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, and the traumatic aftereffects that World War II had on America in the 1950s, that night I'd chosen not to read about Nazis. Instead, I read from a chapter titled "The Great Candy-Store Tragedy," which is about my father's candy store on Church Avenue but also about the Brooklyn Dodgers, many of whom had lived nearby the bookstore.
The night was also a prelude to one more local event: "Bobby on Beaver Street," which will be held Saturday, December 14, at 7 P.M. in the upstairs lounge of the Killarney Rose, on Beaver Street in downtown Manhattan. (The address is actually 127 Pearl Street, but there's also an entrance on Beaver Street.)
Readers of this blog will recall the Killarney Rose as the setting of the two "Bloomsday on Beaver Street" events I held on June 16, 2012 and 2013. The first event was the New York launch of my previous book, Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography; the second event was a celebration of literary books that had been branded pornography, like Ulysses, by James Joyce (which takes place on June 16, 1904), and yes, Beaver Street.
"Bobby on Beaver Street" will feature actors such as Susan Barrett, Byron Nilsson, Joe Gioco, and Laralu Smith reading select passages from Bobby in Naziland. Barrett, who has appeared in such shows as 30 Rock, grew up next door to me and is intimately familiar with the material she will read. Nilsson will be returning as the Beaver Street MC. Gioco is currently appearing in as Judge Leo Tirone in Showtime's City on a Hill. And Smith's searing reading from the Molly Bloom section of Ulysses was a highlight of Bloomsday 2013.
The event is free. Please stay tuned for more details.