Yes, it is true. At long last you have stumbled upon the...
Eric Jay Sonnenschein
This website is an introduction to my creative work. It contains short fiction, essays, poems, song lyrics, excerpts from novels, reviews of my published work and digital images of Plastiglas (R): stained glass art created with my original process.
To read about, sample or purchase any of six books published by Hudson Heights Press and distributed by Amazon.com, please use the following links:
Eric Jay Sonnenschein on Amazon.com
Author page (About Eric Jay Sonnenschein)
Book List page (Reverse chronological Order)
Sartre in The Subway
All Over the Place
Making Up for Lost Time
The Lost Poem and Others Like It
THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY IN MY WORK
I like to reminisce about people I've known, things I've seen, and events I've witnessed or been a part of. Delving into the past is one way to sort out one's life, to make sense of it. At the same time, it may strengthen those functions of the mind that are most vulnerable to the depredations of time and aging. Even so, the past is more like a theme park or a ruin than a new frontier. You can excavate the old and the forgotten, but you're unlikely to find anything new there. Memory Lane is a cul-de-sac. I know that I need to continue to move forward and look ahead because one's personal truth is always in the process of being made.
Someone just asked me today to write about success in 5 sentences. This is what I replied:
My Five Sentences of Success (to go with Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame)
Success is like love—each of us seeks it in different places, activities, people and things. Success is as unique to us as our character—your success must be your own, no one else’s. If you are lucky, you will find success in simple acts—in doing what makes you and others happy. Success ought to fit you like a good set of clothes: it should not be beyond your abilities and interests. If you have to kill yourself to succeed, you must acknowledge that this is not your true success.
Someone recently asked about the writer's journey. My response is this:
The only journey a writer should take is between his back and his backside, his bed and chair. Everything else is research or a waste of time.
I always tell myself, "I wouldn't be in a hurry if I weren't so slow."
Fall 2020, Winter 2021
In September I contacted the Biden-Harris campaign to volunteer but it took another five weeks for me to actually join a phone bank and make calls. I phoned eight days for at least an hour and up to 90 minutes per session. I phoned Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania and Detroit, Michigan. It was a lot of waiting, hangups and then sporadic contact. I had a few bizarre calls. one was with a very old man who told me he was in a room without a computer and he lacked the means, the transportation to go to a poll and vote. A woman in Georgia, who was younger than he, was nonetheless in a similar predicament. I reported her circumstance to our bank supervisors.
I had made cold calls as a telemarketer a long time ago and had also called agents and editors to read my novels, so I knew that I would encounter various cranks and play a few head games. One man I phoned thought he was funny when he countered my earnest entreaty for him to vote for Biden-Harris with musings about whether he ought to buy a Maserati or a Rolls. I had to hang up on him because he was wasting my time and dispiriting me the way wealthy people can do when they complain about their rich person problems.
Another person I contacted, this time a woman, came across as distracted, but she kept me on the line as if we would have a decent exchange. That never happened. She suddenly turned on me with aggressive and disparaging questions and started to gaslight me with misinformation. It seemed that she was teasing me for the benefit of an off-phone audience.
I realized after several days of making these cold calls how tense this election was. But I also had great conversations with people who had either voted en masse with others in their families and communities or intended to do so.
There were a few undecided voters, but they seemed to lean Republican. They usually seemed to have their facts wrong and they didn't like Trump but they hated Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff—misogynist and anti-Semitic.
In the end, I was very gratified by the results, although for a brief while on election night I was nervous when Florida tilted toward Trump as it had done four years before. But when I took my shower at 10PM I just had a good feeling about the way this contest was going to go. I also predicted that even the best result would not yield a smooth transition because the incumbent would not commit to an orderly result. In his mind he could only win—not a democratic attitude.
Since the New Year, we have just been waiting for the COVID vaccines to become available. That is when life will open just a crack. Meanwhile, I double-mask, keep my distance and continue to work toward publication of my diptych—two part novel—and book of essays.
There isn't much I can say here that I haven't written about creatively or that everyone else hasn't been through in some similar manner. Covid-19 commandeered everyone's lives since March. On March 3, 2020, the day after the first Covid-19 patient in New York City was reported (in Riverdale, of all places, around the corner from the Riverdale Y, where I swam nearly everyday), Marilyn and I went into self-isolation.
I credit those two weeks of voluntary partial shelter-in--place at the start of March—before the general shutdown was mandated on March 17--with sparing us, because the first half of March, when most people were oblivious to the threat, was when the virus spread, causing our region to an epicenter of the pandemic.
For a month, hospitals were filled to capacity, sick people had to wait on long lines just to be tested, and it was feared that access to ventilators would have to be rationed due to scarcity. The ventilators, themselves, were not panaceas, only last resorts, and many patients, once attached to them, never recovered. Starting in May, the contagion subsided and by June, New York Covid-19 deaths were in double-digits. This is still tragic and too high, but at the apex of the crisis, deaths often surpassed 800 per day.
Now, life has normalized around physical distance and the wearing of masks. A mask adds a layer of difficulty and discomfort to even the simplest activities, but it is the only precaution we can take to protect ourselves from others and others from ourselves.
In the midst of the mayhem and dismay, I have tried to stay positive and adaptive, and have made the most of my time. Rather than lament the loss of swimming, my beloved recreation and key to aerobic fitness, I've used the spare energy and time to dedicate myself more completely to writing. Since Covid-19 came along, I've nearly completed reviewing the latest proof of my novel and have written and posted 18 essays.
Meanwhile, for exercise, I've reverted to a very old routine, last practiced more than 15 years ago: I "pump iron" with my free weights in the bedroom. There were times when I considered selling them. I'm glad that I didn't. Everything will have its use, if we keep it long enough.
I have almost completed my futuristic dystopian novel, Spontaneous Revolution. It should be in print within months. SR is a two book saga in a genre I call "political science fiction." While it introduces a world that doesn't currently exist and various features, objects, and events that are purely speculative, the principal thrust of Spontaneous Revolution is political and social. It asks questions that bear on the nature of human society, psychology and religious faith.
Also soon to be published, a collection of essays titled Self Helpless. These essays focus on the individual and how we can live more fulfilled lives with whatever means are available to us.
I can't believe I went right through spring without stopping to comment. I have been busy for the past several months, reviewing and revising my dystopian saga. It has turned out to be as much pastime as labor. This summer has been a hot and humid one. There have been no unseasonable cool breaks.
Political matters have been preying on my time and attention. I am caught up like many people in this fraught and pivotal moment, what is now trendily called an "inflection point." It seems that our democracy is under siege and certain weaknesses in it, e.g. the wide-reaching and ambiguous powers of the presidency, are being probed and exploited. One of the problems in a democracy is that one is ultimately at the mercy of one's fellow citizens, the tyrannical majority. One must trust their good judgment as well as one's own.
My novel, given the current predicament, is prescient, because among other things, it deals with the structure and norms of society, and the trade-offs between freedom and order, and how people are affe
After working on it relentlessly and exclusively for two months, I completed and just received the most recent proof for my futuristic dystopian saga. I call it political science fiction insofar as it focuses not on the technology or science of the future, but on the political landscape. My book also has comedy in it. In this sense, it is unlike apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives with their dire and laconic tones. I guess I have a difficult time believing that as long as humans survive, we will ever cease to be ridiculous and to be somewhat self-aware about this aspect of our existence.
It has been very cold in New York, but we have been spared the snow and ice that can make life extremely difficult and inconvenient.
On the other hand, the paucity of cold precipitation has deprived us of some of those wonderful scenic pictures we love. Snow and ice transform the city. As I recently noted on Facebook:
"In the winter the trees are bereft of leaves, but they are not bare when they have their snowliage.
On January 2, I drove out to Niagara Falls with my wife and daughter, to celebrate my wife's birthday. It was one of those Beat-style adventures, i.e. get in the car and go...See what you came for and drive back. The falls were spectacular, especially during the day. At night they light them like a casino sign, but during the morning the water is green and quietly relentless as it moves inexorably toward the horseshoe rim. It is possible at the Canadian falls to stand just behind the water as it is about to fall. That is a thrilling moment just before gravity explodes upon the water--the deluge and the transformation.
Since the last posting, I finished Book 3 and have almost completed a revision of Book 4 (of 10 sections) of a futuristic epic, a sweeping saga of America to come. I have been enjoying this work. It is rewarding to see that there is no time sensitivity to narratives of the future, because time and human behavior are cyclical. When I was in school, teachers claimed and I believed that those who did not learn from history were doomed to repeat it. I no longer believe that we can improve on the present by learning from the past, because we are forced to engage with our lives now, not a thousand years ago. The basic matrix of life remains constant but the circumstances and challenges are so different in their details, that we cannot decode them fast enough to match them with the problems our ancestors faced.
Even if we were able to correlate our dilemmas and conflicts with those of the past, iImprovement might be impossible, because homo sapiens has not changed much over the millennia. We are still driven by certain imperatives--sex, power, aggression, family, community--and they keep us moving in the same circles. The past can tell us where we have been and where we are going, but not how to go somewhere else, to higher ground or higher consciousness. For that we must go within. Even then we're not sure what we may find.
I have also been busy writing essays, which I post on the Internet., on Linked In, Facebook and Twitter.
Like most people, I am watching the midterm election campaign, wondering what will happen next. I try to be the calming voice that reassures nervous people that our nation has survived for 229 years through many crises that threatened the core principles of democracy and our union. I guess that makes me hopeful that we will pass through this storm, stronger at least for the moment, and able to confront the next storm.
Since the last posting, I have been working steadily on the first three sections, or "books," of my novel-in-progress, a political saga that takes place in the latter half of the 21st century. This novel has a gallery of characters that I have enjoyed writing about, but it is foremost about the society in which they live. I once heard the late Tom Wolfe speak about his penchant for sweeping novels in which Society is the principal character. Fiction of this kind a writer to invent on a vast scale. When we are otherwise do minutely controlled by government, media and technology, the freedom to imagine and create cannot be underestimated. I know I cherish it.
The World Cup has occupied much of leisure time and attention. Through the prism of one sporting event, one has the opportunity to see many nations and cultures in their most boisterous and colorful raiment. Soccer, itself, is a sporting spectacle like no other. It has a primitive quality. The athletes must coordinate their attack and defense on a very large field while surrendering one of the prime advantages all primates have--the use of their hands.
While soccer is predicated on not touching one's opponent, a normal game is full of collisions, trips, head bumps and other incidental acts of violence--for which the players have little protection. Every player but the goalkeeper must run several miles in the course of a match, often in sudden sprints. Scoring goals wins soccer games, yet it is extremely difficult to do when two teams play at a high level, since each team can nullify its opponent's attack through close marking, tackling (sliding between the legs and separating the opponent from the ball), and blocking of shots.
Because scoring is so hard, many tense soccer games go back and forth like a metronome of men and ball, and are frequently decided by unforeseen moments of brilliance that appear out of nothing--like magic. Because a goal in a tight contest is so precious, when a team scores, its supporters cannot rejoice or relax because a one-goal lead is a one of the hardest advantages to maintain. Almost nothing is quite as deflating as when the losing opponent gets a goal and ties the score. The team that was winning now feels like they are losing. Scoring a goal infuses confidence in a team. It is like a shot of B-12: regardless of how listless a team looked before, now they are full of vitality and aggression.
In this year's final match, France will meet Croatia in a deja vu rematch of the semifinals of the 1998 World Cup that took place in France. France won that match, 2-1, with two fast scores by Lilian Thuram, a brilliant defender who rarely scored otherwise. In their last two matches, the French side also broke ahead on two goals scored by defenders. This Croatian team of cagey veterans has won three successive matches in extra time, so they are battle-tested. It should be a tight contest with an unexpected hero coming through when least expected. Or now. The World Cup has a way of breaking hearts and defying expectations.
Today's big soccer matches must be like the Greek tragedies of the Dyonysia, the dramatic festival of Athens, full of dread anticipation and concluding at least for one team and its supporters in cathartic release.
Hot summer. Cool swimming. Working hard, cooking well and watching great soccer. This has been my life of late.
I am working on the galleys of my next book, a futuristic political saga. The first two parts needed to be brought up to the level of what comes later. Now I am almost done with those first 200 pages. This work is epic. It also totally differs from anything else I have published.
Winter still has not left town. It is sticking around for a little longer until it can arrange its next move. I don't mind sweater weather, so it's okay with me.
I posted my 100th LinkedIn Pulse essay on December 31, 2017. Since then, I have added seven more pieces. I'm not sure when I'll stop. These essays are a distraction, but I enjoy writing them--and that's one of the points about writing or creating anything. Without the joy, is it worth it? Of course, the question rises: does a writer's joy communicate to the reader? Can we read enthusiasm? We surely perceive the energy in a written line or sentence, so my guess is, "Yes!" The life force can be detected even on the driest and most abstract of forms--the two dimensional words on a page.
We spent several days between Christmas and New Year in Montreal in the coldest temperatures I have ever experienced. It was cold that hurt, that froze jaws and could snap off exposed ear lobes. It was too cold to walk, too cold to cry. But Montreal is a beautiful city, a fact that was not obviated or minimized by the weather. We wandered around the old town with its wonderful stone houses and winding cobblestone streets. We sat by the river and saw naked people in a spa walk out of a steamy enclosure out into the sub-zero air.
It was instructive to experience this incomparable city in extreme cold. We were able for a short time to gain a perspective of Montreal that its founders might have had when they first settled there. The great beauty and culture of Montreal are that much more impressive when one considers how much its people had to endure and overcome to survive-much less to work, build and create.
The city is blessed not only with a wonderful mix of architectural styles and materials, but extraordinary geographical features. It lies on a majestic river and has a mountain right in its center. The Oratorio of St. Joseph, Montreal's version of Sacre Coeur in Paris, is built against a mountainous rock face, which you can walk out and look at.
Since returning to New York, I have been very busy completing the first proof of my next book, a novel that takes place in the near future of America. I hope to have it done ready and published in 2018.
On the last day of 2017 I posted my 100th essay on LinkedIn Pulse, the magazine platform for LinkedIn, the professional's social network. Fittingly, this piece examines the significance of milestones in writing and the arts. It also summarizes my experience of writing for a social media audience.
Autumn in New York has been late and vacillating, as if unsure it wants to stay with us. For every brisk day we've had, there have been four warm ones to make us forget it. Fortunately, I am often indoors, writing. When you spend extended time in your imagination, you make the weather you want. Indeed, were it not for my work, this fall so far would be a disappointment.
I have been working intensively on my third novel, a dystopic futuristic political thriller. I have also posted 11 new essays on Linked In Pulse toward my goal of posting 100 essays by December 31, 2017. I began posting essays on Linked In in June, 2014. Since then, I have posted 93 essays on a wide range of topics and have reached tens of thousands of readers worldwide.
On another front, I am preparing a fourth book of essays for publication. When I started working on Sartre in the Subway, I also assembled essays into another collection. I initially intended to publish both books on the same day, but this double-publishing fantasy ultimately seemed infeasible and frivolous so I abandoned. it. But I have been steadily working on
SARTRE IN THE SUBWAY PUBLISHED.
Sartre in the Subway, was published on June 11, 2017. It has been available on Amazon.com in soft-cover Kindle e-book formats. Sartre in the Subway, which explores existentialism in everyday life, has received universally excellent reviews and is attracting readers.
In Sartre in the Subway, I have come closer than ever to showing the essay form in its full array of possibilities--narrative, analysis, description and definition. Sartre in the Subway brings together many vibrant literary threads--autobiography, social commentary, cultural and literary criticism, travel and philosophy--in exploring a range of topics, including success and failure, life and death, faith and doubt in the face of uncertainty, mindfulness and distraction, great cities, bad radio, great holidays and funny personal days--and much more. Out of 25 essays--one cohesive book.
"Writing is the only way to revisit the past."
This maxim came to me today when I heard a specific Beatles song on the radio today. I reflected that it reminded me of a person and episode in my early 20s. For a moment, I wondered what happened to the person whose name, face, quirks and behavior one afternoon was still tagged to an otherwise lovely song.
During that episode years ago, this person and I had a tuna sandwich, sang this Beatles song together, then went to the MOMA, where we quarreled at a Cezanne exhibition. She was more enthusiastic about the French post-Impressionist than I was, no doubt.
I was trying to talk to her, but she looked at the paintings the way other people view films. She took exception to my talking during her viewing and she told me she cared more about Cezanne than about me, which I resented.
While I sulked from hurt feelings, I encountered another person I knew, whom I had not seen in a long time and who appeared to me as a savior angel--though she had no inclination to be one.
Now, on a January day, I had two people from the distant past to consider. I wondered what happened to them.
There are many ways to learn the fates and whereabouts of people we knew. Even old websites, long since decommissioned and updated, can be excavated for our eyes and the refreshment of our memories.
But then I asked myself, "Why do you want to know what happened to these two old acquaintances who are now strangers?" Our times together had been brief and not happy: that fact would not be remedied by a late amendment.
No, I concluded, there would be no point in making contact and it occurred to me that the best way to know about people I used to know was by how I remembered them and the best place to reunite with them was in my head.
Coincidentally, my new book, which I am near completing, deals with this issue. My new book contains 25 essays. Some read like mini-memoirs. They explore the attempt to reconstitute people and places in our pasts to come to better terms with who we are.
November 13, 2016—Until 2016 I never watched cable news or political talk shows. But for the past six months I have been on a steady diet of both. The political situation and the stark contrast in the two presidential candidates and their political positions produced enormous conflict not only in the electorate but in many voters. It has been a year when none of the political conventions have been reliable predictors of voter behavior.
After 8 years of one party in control of the presidency, it was expected that this would be a year of change. But it is more than that. It seems to be a political watershed, in which social media and digital news are more powerful even than the traditional mass media of television, radio and print. More than that, this is the first year when many in the electorate did not care about the source or quality of their information. They no longer believed facts were important. Or put another way, they seemed to believe that there are many sets of facts, and we choose the ones we want. For this reason, typical benchmarks for selecting candidates, such as debates, were of marginal importance
But in the wake of a startling and disquieting outcome, I found serenity and comfort in my writing. And I am close to completing my new book, a collection of closely related philosophical essays. It will be published in early 2017.
In 2016, I have been revising the essays in my new book. The subject and tenor of this new book is philosophical in perspective. It deals with themes of personal choice, self-knowledge, memory and the influence of the past to the present.
More than any other literary form, the essay lends itself to reading, interpreting and responding to other writers.
In fiction and poetry, such an interaction can become imitative or parodic. But the essay is intrinsically a synthesis and part of a larger discussion. From its inception as a genre, it has functioned as a medium of thought.
Montaigne, the father of the modern essay, was explicit in his motives for inventing the genre—he wished to express and explore his response to his life and his favorite readings. My two collections will have the same spirit and objective. In 2017, I will publish my third book of essays, and seventh book, overall.
MARATHON FILM REVIEW
In January, 2016, for the second year in a row, I watched 14 of the leading films of the previous year, and wrote a massive review on all of them.
"30 Hours in the Dark: 14 Films of 2015
Posted in Linked In Pulse, 26 January, 2016
I have published 5 books that are sold on Amazon.com. Visit my author page for a bio and more information on my books.
MAD NOMAD, A COMIC NOVEL ABOUT THE PEACE CORPS IN TUNISIA
My novel, Mad Nomad, was published on September 27, 2015
Mad Nomad is a comic-romance adventure novel set in Tunisia, a small, vibrant country in North Africa between the Mediterranean and the Sahara.
Mad Nomad is one novel, yet is structured as five shorter books or sections that each functions well on its own. The best comparison I can make is "The Alexandria Quartet," by Lawrence Durrell, which treats the lives of several characters in the setting of Alexandria, the Egyptian port city. However, the four books of Durrell's masterpiece were separate volumes, each with a different narrator, and each with a different principal character, whereas Mad Nomad is told by one narrator, and is contained in one cover.
And though Mad Nomad can be viewed as five linking parts, it should be read sequentially, from start to finish, since it portrays a year in a Peace Corps volunteer's life and develops his character and relationships over that time.
For those readers who prefer their novels to come in series, but do not like one book to be voluminous, Mad Nomad may offer a rewarding reading experience, since it can be read as a series, and can be enjoyed in more than one sitting.
If you want to laugh about human relationships, learn about the Peace Corps, as well as a fascinating, historically significant country, about which little is known, Mad Nomad is a book you may want to check out.
“Humor is the best pharmaceutical.”
Truth in advertising? Forget about it.
This is the truth about advertising.
Madison Avenue is such an absurd location that the only way to describe it truthfully is in fiction.
Ad Nomad—conspiracy, criminal acts, sexual deviancy, drug abuse, massive fraud, bizarre heroism, humiliation, deception, psychological torture, political oppression, emotional disorders, violations of trust and the one question you should ask is, “Am I in it?”
LINKED IN ESSAYS: 183 and Counting
Since June, 2014 I have posted 183 essays on LinkedIn.
In 2020, I posted 20 essays, including A Plague of Our Own, Exile at My Own Address, Corona Spring, A Tribute to Two Women, and Abuse of the Military is A Bridge Too Far.
My essays reach 3.5 million people worldwide.
ALL OVER THE PLACE: ESSAYS FROM A to Z
Published in 2013, All Over the Place has 26 essays. Each title starts with a different letter of the alphabet. These essays range from the analytical to the boisterously humorous and cover such topics as literary agents, cooking shows, a whale watch, a mouse hunt, unemployment, and much more.
MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME
Welcome to the age of the personal essay.
Making Up for Lost Time is a collection of personal essays on many topics and in many tones, from humorous to whimsical to philosophical, and a fanfare to a literary movement.
The essays in Making Up for Lost Time address life and death and much in between—a perfect cup of coffee, a perfect day for a colonoscopy, parenting, a mammogram for men, a day in traffic court, self-assessment, swimming...and more.
While the essays in Making Up for Lost Time hold together as a portrait of the writer and as a proverbial day in the life, the book need not be read that way. One great attribute of the personal essay as a literary form is how well it adapts to the vagaries of the reader. You can partake of as much or as little as you wish without concern that you are losing the thread.
The personal essay is a venerable literary form ideally suited to our times: expressive, immediate, eclectic and flexible: a perfect one-on-one communication between one writer and one reader.
Making Up for Lost Time sets the contemporary standard for this resurgent genre.
OTHER CREATIVE WORK
I invented a mixed media art form, PLASTIGLAS, which uses plastic as paint, and glass as canvass. PLASTIGLAS compositions have been shown in various galleries and are on constant display in my home.
For several years, I wrote songs and performed with several rock bands in many New York venues. 18 studio-produced recordings are the lasting result of those collaborations. Some of these demos were featured on local radio broadcasts.