Suffused with a unique brand of irreverent humor, this account recalls the autobiographical explorations of the most significant alternative communities, ashrams, gurus, shamans, and consciousness-raising seminars of the past 40 years. Serving as a human guinea pig for many of the most popular cutting-edge New Age, human potential, and spiritual experiments, Eliezer Sobel recounts intercontinental adventures in India, Israel, Brazil, and Haiti. From Primal Therapy to the Dalai Lama, this perceptively witty analysis includes brushes with cults, wild experiments with sex and psychedelics, and encounters with visionary gurus and contemporary madmen.
I was fortunate to be able to ask Eliezer some questions. Here are his answers:
Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?
Just about every writer I’ve ever read has probably influenced me on some level, along with every non-writer I’ve ever met. So that would include my mother, Kurt Vonnegut, and the guy who works behind the counter at the Carnegie Deli, to name just three.
Do you write everyday?
No, I’ve never been one of those people who have a set time where they sit with the blank page no matter what. I only write when I have something to say, and as I get older, it feels like I have less to say, not more. That’s why I started a “Mostly Silent Blog.” (http://the99thmonkey.wordpress.com/)
What has been your greatest achievement as a writer?
I’m most proud of the fact that my first novel, Minyan: Ten Jewish Men in a World That is Heartbroken, was chosen from 400 entries as the winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel, and the judge was National Book Award winner John Casey. So that felt—briefly—like I was finally being noticed and acknowledged by the “real” literary community, although if that was true, I think they forgot about me pretty quickly.
Have you always wanted to be a writer, or did you aspire to be something else growing up?
I wanted to be a baseball player, magician, detective, jazz musician, star of stage and screen, and rock star.
Are you currently working on anything?
I’m very sporadically working on a sequel to Minyan, with some of the same characters, but about 20 years later. I was thinking also about an Alzheimer’s novel, in which the author loses the thread of the story midway through and by the end of the book he is speaking utter nonsense.
What authors do you enjoy reading?
Lately I’ve discovered the works of Steve Stern, who writes Jewish fabulist stories that make you feel like you’re walking upside-down in a living Chagall painting. I’m currently reading Henry Miller’s Sexus for the first time, and appreciating his raw, honest style. Over the years I’ve been into Kerouac and Ginsberg, Stanley Elkin, Philip Roth. I’m a big fan of Colin Wilson and Robert Anton Wilson, Tom Robbins, Vonnegut, and last year’s NBA winner, my friend Richard Powers.
Is there a particular author/s (yourself excluded) who you feel don't get the recognition they deserve?
One of the results of their not getting the recognition they deserve is that I’ve never heard of them.
What is your favorite book?
Judy and Jeremy’s Hanukah. I’ve had it since I was 4, and still reread it every year.
What is a book that has been highly acclaimed but you haven't liked?
Father William McNamara said, “Never read good books. There’s not enough time. Only read great ones.” So if I don’t like a book in the first few pages, I’m usually not very patient, and will often toss it aside. But as a result, I’m in no position to be a fair judge of those books. I try to only read books I like.
What word or phrase do you feel is overused?
“Schnaby,” but only by my wife.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, and thanks again to Pump Up Your Book Promotion!
3 weeks ago