Which Jewish-American author could this be?
December 14, 2012 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me remember the name of this Jewish-American author?

I read in an issue of the New Yorker, from somewhere between 2005 and 2007, a short story that, it was explained in a note, was taken from a larger body of work that was meant to be a novel. It was by a Jewish-American author. I got the feeling that he never got the recognition he deserved.

In the story a man has a mysterious job that brings him to a clandestine location made up of several rooms where another man also works, but for a separate agency. It ends with no conclusive resolution.

Can you help me remember the name of the author?
posted by slowlikemolasses to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Write and ask at the New Yorker.
posted by lathrop at 9:06 PM on December 14, 2012

Could it have been Gary Shteyngart? Absurdistan came out around that time and I think this was taken from the novel (though I haven't read Absurdistan or the short story I linked to, the premise you describe sounds fairly Shteygartian). I know GS didn't get as much praise for Absurdistan as he did for The Russian Debutante's Handbook, which came out before, or as he did for Super Sad True Love Story, which came out after, but he's a pretty acclaimed writer, so I don't know if he fits your description.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:55 PM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Was it Henry Roth? The New Yorker published several excerpts of his unfinished work around that time.

I don't see anything else that looks likely after searching "fiction" in the New Yorker's online index for those years, unless you're misremembering the Russian Surrealist writer Daniil Kharms as a Jewish American.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:24 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

A Year in Reading: New Yorker Fiction 2005

That website led me to this one (a mystery to me, but looks promising): New Yorker Fiction Index.

Perhaps you can look through these lists and see if anything rings a bell?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:18 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

To follow up on Sidhedevil's suggestion of Henry Roth, here is his story "Freight" from the September 25, 2006, issue. At the bottom it says that it's taken from an unedited 2,000-page manuscript.

And if this is the story you're looking for, you're right. Henry Roth never got the recognition he deserved.
posted by fryman at 8:04 AM on December 15, 2012

Thanks everyone. No, it's not "Freight." I'm looking at the index now; the story may have been from 2004 I now realize.

More information: The author may have a Russian past. I believe the story was written in the 1940s.
posted by slowlikemolasses at 4:57 PM on December 17, 2012

A phone booth or simply a pay phone may have been how the protagonist got his orders.
posted by slowlikemolasses at 5:10 PM on December 17, 2012

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