Monday, August 06, 2007

The Felsenfeld Collection

The July 30 issue of The New Yorker has an interesting article about Brooklyn classical composer Danny Felsenfeld showing up as a character in several recent novels.

He’s Inspector Felsenfeld in Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. He also appears in The Secondhand World by Katherine Min (as a youngish teacher), At the Feet of the Divine by Benjamin Anastas (a half-mad, pre-Anschluss Talmudic scholar), Every Visible Thing by Lisa Carey (a pipe-smoking high school principal) and in a forthcoming novel by Ellen Slezak as a University of Michigan student in the late seventies who works on the grounds crew at the school’s athletic complex.

Altogether Felsenfeld appears in seven books: three that have been published in the U.S. since 2006, one in an Austrian bestseller and three in works that are still in progress, according to The New Yorker.

Slezak started the movement after arriving at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. “I needed a Jewish name, and I didn’t have my usual sources to find one – I don’t know, looking through a phone book or taking a walk in a Jewish cemetery. I was sitting there in my little studio that day, and I started saying to myself, ‘Felsenfeld, Felsenfeld, Danny – that guy who’s always around.”

New Yorker writer Brian Thomas Gallagher describes Felsenfeld as “quirky and charismatic.” He also writes, “Felsenfeld is gregarious, bespectacled, and possessed of the uncanny ability to be present anytime someone was looking for conversation . . . Charmed by him, and by his memorable last name, they (the authors) began inserting namesakes into their manuscripts.”

Now here’s how I think: This is a great opportunity to assemble the Felsenfeld Collection, a small, but intriguing collection of novels featuring characters all based on the same individual. It would be an especially nice collection if all the books were signed by Felsenfeld.

1 comment:

  1. Were you to assemble the Felsenfeld collection, you might be the only one--though apparently this is not a done deal: there may be more.

    But if you get it together, I will happily sign it!

    Thanks for your post; got a big kick.

    Daniel Felsenfeld (a.k.a. "Inspector")