The Arty Semite

Being the 'Kvetch' Guy

By Michael Wex

  • Print
  • Share Share

On Monday, Michael Wex wrote about the birth of his idea for his new novel “The Frumkiss Family Business.” His blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:


It’s nothing to complain about, really. Ever since word got out that I’m supposed to know something about Yiddish, I’ve been receiving scores of e-mails every week. Most are very nice; someone has read something that I’ve written and wants to let me know that they’ve enjoyed it. Some of the correspondents even enclose their own stories about specific Yiddish words or phrases, reminiscences of things that their parents or grandparents used to say.

These are good. Now that snail mail from anybody but billing departments and lawyers is pretty much a thing of the past, e-mails of this type help to give authors the feeling that they haven’t been working in vain.

Not everything is so pleasant, though. Some e-mails claim that I don’t know Yiddish, that I’m a disgrace to the entire Jewish people. I’ve yet to receive an e-mail of this type with a correct “correction.” Most authors enjoy these kinds of e-mails; they read them out loud to their author friends, usually someplace where alcohol is being served. Everybody has a good laugh, especially when the disgruntled e-mailer admits to having borrowed the book from the library.

And then there are the real nudniks. Like the guy who wanted me to read his grandson’s high school essay on Elie Wiesel and “feel free to make any changes that [I] think necessary.” Like the “novelist” who sent me a page of dialogue that he wanted translated into Yiddish; he was prepared to put my name on the acknowledgments page of his book, just as soon as he could find a publisher. Like the woman who asked for the “origin” of the word shikse. I wrote back and told her on what pages in which of my books she could find a detailed explanation of the origins, development and various uses of the word. Her response? “I wanted the origin and you gave me page numbers. Thanks for nothing. Somebody told me you were an expert. Some Goddamed [sic] expert you turned out to be.”

And my all-time favourite, this one via telephone: “Would you speak to an audience of 400 dentists for 400 dollars?” I explained that, at a dollar per dentist for the lecture, the 400 dentists would be paying ten times as much to park their cars as they’d be paying for me.

“Yeah, but what else have you got to do on a Sunday morning?”

“I was hoping for a free root canal.”

I could hear the dentist breathing.

“No? No discount?” I asked. “Then I suggest you get the parking lot guy to entertain you — him, at least, you’re willing to pay.”

“How dare you? No one has ever been this rude to me.”

“That makes two of us,” I told him and said goodbye.

Exactly a week later, the dentist called back. He wanted to know if I’d changed my mind.

Come back all week to read Michael Wex’s blog posts. His new novel, “The Frumkiss Family Business,” is now available.

The Jewish Book Council is a not-for-profit devoted to the reading, writing, and publishing of Jewish literature. For more Jewish literary blog posts, reviews of Jewish books, book club resources, and to learn about awards and conferences, please visit www.jewishbookcouncil.org.

MyJewishLearning.com is the leading transdenominational website of Jewish information and education. Visit My Jewish Learning for thousands of articles on Judaism, Jewish holidays, Jewish history, and more.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish, The Frumkiss Family Business, Michael Wex, My Jewish Learning, Jewish Book Council, Books, Author Blog Series

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.