When aspiring artist Simon Asher breaks up with his pregnant girlfriend, Chloe, he takes refuge in his mother’s tiny one-bedroom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Out goes Alix Asher’s quiet writing life; in comes tortured romance, the very “thorn in the side of contentment” Alix swore off years ago.

Meanwhile, California architect Max Kozloff arrives on the Upper East Side to settle his late father’s estate. His plan: sell Sol Kozloff’s sprawling Park Avenue apartment and close the venerable Yorkville shop the old man founded—Kozloff Pens, where Simon Asher works.

As the paths of these smart, civilized people start to cross, the ground beneath them shifts, jolting a bit of the past into the present.

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among_the_ginzburgsAmong the Ginzburgs

Zoland Books, 1996

A weekend-in-the-country plot along the lines of The Cherry Orchard and The Big Chill gives this short novel its theatrical structure, and Pall’s crackling wit and insightful prose give it its lively, moving voice. The Ginzburgs are your average smart, mostly successful, less than happy New York Jewish family with an acceptable level of dysfunction and a dying father who once disappeared with a suicidal poet. Gathered at Meyer Ginzburg’s deathbed, the Ginzburg siblings talk, argue, reminisce, and speculate on the life their father lived apart from them, and reconstruct something like a unified family again.

“Extremely readable… [Examines] with absolute acuity the ever expanding and contracting familial pull of brothers and sisters, husbands and wives.” Wendy Wasserstein, The New York Times Book Review

“The sentences uttered by these literary descendants of Salinger’s Glass family are good enough to eat. So are the sentences that describe them.” The New Yorker


Related: My Sister In Disguise from The New York Times Sunday Magazine

backeast-ellenpallBack East

David R. Godine, 1983

Melanie is a songwriter in L.A., who’s sick of California. She returns to New York, takes a Greenwich Village apartment, and intends to resume her career and reestablish ties with her family. Life, however, is unpredictable. A chance meeting in an elevator leads to a relationship with Lucian, a beautiful young actor whose previous and – as it happens – continuing involvement with Martin Ivory causes confusion and pain. It’s July in molten New York, and Melanie is due in Maine, at Milk Lake, where her widowed mother, a doomed arranger of other people’s lives, is reluctant to preside at her son-in-law’s marriage to her cook/housekeeper.

But that’s the mere ticking of plot. The interest of this accomplished first novel lies in the character of Melanie, a woman whose unilliusioned acceptance of how we live is delivered in an ironic, sweet-sour voice only the chastened romantic heart could muster. BACK EAST is a seamless novel about the dues everyone who loves somehow must pay.

“Precise, shrewd, and brightly amusing.” Kirkus

“Moving story spiked by arid wit…surprise follows surprise in the life of a heroine one cares about and wishes well.” Publishers Weekly

“Vivid characters coupled with a tightly structured plot make this novel a pleasurable and moving experience…an enhancing addition to most fiction collections.” Library Journal