Exclusive! A free (and sexy) Jon Papernick short story

Jon Papernick’s first novel, Who by Fire, Who by Blood, has been referred to as a “fast-paced thriller,” and “smart, relentless, impossible to put down.”  The audiobook, narrated by John Greenman, is such a sharp, hairpin-turning work of literary delight that we asked Jon if he’d not only indulge our few questions, but offer us up another audio story for you.

He was, John graciously recorded it, and we’re pleased to offer up My Darling Sweetheart Baby, a short story by Jon Papernick, narrated by John Greenman. Enjoy it, then read below to discover what else Jon’s up to.

Listen now

Miette Elm:Did you have any reservations about allowing Who By Fire, Who By Blood to be made into an audiobook? What were they? How did narrator John Greenman’s voicing of the text match up to what you had in your head?

Jon Papernick: I had no reservations at all about turning Who by Fire, Why by Blood into an audio book. I think John did a wonderful job and he was really willing to work at getting all of the Hebrew/Yiddish pronunciation correct.

Bruce Pirie

Author Jon Papernick

ME: The novel works quite well when read aloud– there’s something cinematic to the narrative voice, and a natural cadence to the sentence structure. Do you read aloud when writing?

JP: Yes, I do read aloud when I’m writing, and I always tell my students that it is important to constantly read your work out loud. I think Robert Frost once said “The ear is the only true reader,” and I think that is absolutely true. Not reading your work aloud is somewhat like writing sheet music without actually playing it out loud. Prose should be as musical as poetry, and of course human speech at its truest is poetry.

ME: Do you listen to many audiobooks? If so, what else do you do while listening? Driving? Knitting? Ay titles you’d like to recommend as exceptional?

JP: I used to listen to a lot of audio books when my kids were first born. I would listen in the car as it was driving them back and forth, and while I was preparing dinner, and while I was folding laundry. Sometimes I would download them onto my iPod and go for long walks listening to novels. I really think that John Greenman did a wonderful job reading The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, which is probably the funniest book ever written. Listening to that book made me really excited to work with John. I also think that the audiobooks for Middlesex By Jeffery Eugenides, Tree of Smoke by Dennis Johnson and Lush Life Richard Price were superlative.

ME: We seem to be in somewhat of a golden age of strong Jewish heroes and anti-heroes in North American fiction. Who else is writing gripping, bitingly real fiction like this that would work well as an audiobook?

JP: I just met with a young writer named Ilan Mochari whose novel Zinsky the Obscure is coming out this fall. I think that would make a wonderful audio book.

ME: You’ve also taught fiction writing at a number of colleges and universities. How does teaching the craft shape your own craft, and vice versa?

JP: First of all, I really enjoy teaching, and I wonder whether I could be a writer at all if I was simply locked up in a garret somewhere with a pen and paper. I think there is a certain symbiotic relationship between me and my students, and I often articulate my inner thoughts clearly to them before I actually integrate them into my own writing. Teaching really helps center me as a writer, and I am constantly reminded that writing is a craft that needs to be practiced regularly.

ME: What are you working on next?

JP: I’m currently working on a novel and am about to undertake a major rewriting of it. The novel is called the Sunday Synagogue Softball League. I recently sent my agent the first 68,000 words, and he had some very helpful comments about major structural changes that I need to consider in order for the story to really come alive. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, and I’m just trying to find the right headspace to get started. I’m also working on a third collection of short stories entitled Gallery of the Disappeared Men.


Who By Fire, Who By Blood

Who by Fire, Who by Blood  is available from Iambik as an audiobook for only $6.99. Bestselling author Jennifer Haigh calls it a thinking man’s thriller — smart, relentless, impossible to put down.

We couldn’t agree more. Why not listen to the first chapter and see if it hooks you?

iambikast #1: Gordon Lish in Conversation with John Oakes

Iambikast #1a (mp3)
Iambikast #1b (mp3)

Our inaugural iambikast comes from a rather extraordinary event. iambik undertook creation of an audiobook of the Collected Fictions from the legendary editor, Gordon Lish. OR Books publisher John Oakes suggested that Mr. Lish read some selections himself, which sounded to us a good idea. In fact, it was better than a good idea: Lish has never, ever publicly performed a reading of his own work. It was an historic idea (and you can hear Lish’s selected readings here, and buy the entire Collected Fictions here, with all stories read by Gregg Margarite).

Gordon Lish reading Collected Fictions

Gordon Lish reading Collected Fictions

So, two intrepid iambikers, Miette and I, set off to meet with Mr. Lish and Mr. Oakes for a reading, which was to be held in John Oakes’ apartment in New York. I admit, I was nervous, but the charming Lish regaled us with stories of his early job as a late-night DJ, and teaching Craig Venter. Son after, we gathered together in John’s children’s playroom – the closest to sound-proof studio we could find — and set up our gear. Lish, arranged comfortably, somehow, on a kid’s chair, with a map of the world, set to reading with an attention to detail that only a demanding editor could have. He delighted us with language play at haute voix. You really should listen.

Before the reading ended, I had to catch a plane. BUt before I left, I asked Miette if she could record John and Gordon for ten minutes or so, talking about literature, once the reading was done. The result is more than an hour of conversation that makes up iambikcast#1.

Miette’s Description

Before arriving to record Gordon Lish’s narration of selections from Collected Fictions, I (like too many people) knew more about the American fiction writers Lish helped cultivate than the American fiction he himself had committed to the page.

Gordon Lish and John Oakes

Gordon Lish and John Oakes

I’d briefed myself on the material just beforehand, an experience which quickly devolved into kid-in-candy-store delight with what I’d discovered:  fully charged pieces, short and raw and sparse and endlessly interpretable.  If you’ve listened to the Iambik selections that Lish read himself, and those read by Iambik narrator Gregg Margarite, you’ll have some idea of this diversity:  the sentences ply their own orbit and speak for themselves, whether spoken with the unrestrained volatility of the author, or from behind the subdued undertones of Gregg’s narration.

If you haven’t yet listened, Lish read with enough force to shake the city, and read more than twice the volume he’d originally agreed on, to the pleasure of us all.  He continued reading selections until he literally could no longer read the words on the page, at which point we invited OR Books publisher John Oakes into the room for a conversation.  Given the impromptu nature of the chat, I didn’t quite have the recording equipment to capture multiple voices, so it’s a little noisy, a little haphazard, and a little desultory, as any good conversation demands.  I’d be a hoarder not to share the result.

In the first part of the conversation, Lish covers Beckett’s boils and other afflictions of our literary heroes, remembrances of Neal Cassady, and the writer as witch doctor.

The second part focuses on Lish’s (as always, uncensored) assertions on the state of contemporary American letters, in which we’re imparted with opinions on Allen Ginsberg and Philip Roth, achieving religious experience through DeLillo, the finer points of book blurbing, and encouraging the further crimes of Tao Lin.

The Iambik recording of Gordon Lish’s Collected Fictions can be purchased here.

Oh and you can see more photos of the reading here.