The Black Hole Pastrami - Stories
by Jeffrey M. Feingold
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Pub Date 01 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 31 Oct 2023
Meat for Tea Press, MFT Press
Satisfying and often joyful, these short stories concern family connections and childhood memories."
- Forward Reviews
Sixteen tales are offered here, many of which examine family relations and Ukrainian Jewish heritage. The collection opens with the title story, which describes a vegetarian son venturing to a deli to buy his dying father a black pastrami on rye with extra mustard. The errand leads the man to reflect on his own life, marked by a stultifying sense of helplessness. “Here’s Looking at You, Syd,” one of the longer stories, is about a husband and wife who journey to Moscow to adopt a child but are confronted by a wall of Russian bureaucracy. Other stories examine coming of age; in “The Buzz Bomb,” a young boy takes playing war games too far and is met with disastrous consequences. Similarly in “The Wrong Napkin,” childish naïveté leads to an embarrassing misjudgment and a chat about the differences between men and women. In “Goth Girl,” a young aspiring writer falls for a darkly aloof poet. Stories such as “Avalanche” and “My Left Foot” celebrate familial relationships with pet dogs, whereas “America’s Test Chicken” is a tongue-in-cheek tale of the launch of “one of the hottest cooking shows on cable TV.” Things take a weirdly humorous twist in “Seventh Sense” when a dentist offers “tissue harvested from the departed” to address a patient’s gum complaint. The collection closes with “The Sugar Thief,” about an embarrassing auntie who steals sugar sachets from the diner.
Jeffrey M. Feingold’s story collection, The Black Hole Pastrami, is a delicious offering of interwoven stories, seasoned with surrealism, humor, a bit of regret, a lot of heart. One great benefit of this collection of very short stories is that once you have turned its every page, you have time to read it again, the second time lingering over your favorites. For me, one of those is the surprisingly poignant story of the child who loses control of the family car in imaginary single-minded, ardent pursuit of Nazis, the length of his legs an unfortunate mismatch to his determination to vanquish the foe and win World War II. Each story has its own turning point, while the collection as a whole is like a Maypole of interconnectedness: relationships and images that reach through several narratives to continually connect and reconnect to remind us that this could as easily be called a novel."
-Jan Maher, award-winning author of Earth As It Is, The Persistence of Memory, and Heaven, Indiana
Feingold’s stories are written in the first person and emotionally have the feel of autobiography. The release captured at the close of 'The Black Hole Pastrami is profoundly moving: 'The black hole cracked open; light streamed out. For the first time, I forgave myself. For not saving them. For failing at the impossible.'
The author is also expert at describing shifting personal perspectives; one regards the aunt who embarrasses her teenage nephew by stealing sugar differently when it’s explained that she lived through rationing during the Depression and World War II.
Although Feingold’s stories can be darkly poignant, they can also make readers laugh out loud, as when the patient with the tissue graft in “Seventh Sense” announces: “I taste dead people.” The collected tales are also intriguing due to the echoes that link them. Further references to The Sixth Sense star Bruce Willis crop up in other stories, as do mentions of the black pastrami, making for delightful moments.
Feingold has a pleasantly unconventional descriptive style, unusually capturing events such as sitting in the dentist’s chair: “my mouth as wide open as an angry hippopotamus, as he poked with cold pointy instruments" ... a textured, imaginative debut collection.Inventive and emotionally observant writing.
- Kirkus Reviews
Jeffrey M. Feingold writes with tremendous charm and has a gentle, affectionate attitude towards his characters and their situations in THE BLACK HOLE PASTRAMI, a collection of stories that are quick and comforting reads. There’s an echo of Jean Shepherd’s work here, a humorous and slightly fictionalized recounting of an affectionately-recalled if not perfect childhood and life—instead of a Red Rider BB gun, a young boy carries around a pillow case full of explosives with which to battle Nazis.
The stories of Jeffrey M. Feingold’s The Black Hole Pastrami are written with an uncommonly deft touch. Feingold knows just when to nudge readers with a metaphorical elbow and when to swing the figurative hammer. These stories are brief but not underdeveloped. Complex but not complicated. Sensitive but not sentimental. Literary but not conventional. Ironic but not sarcastic. Humorous but not jokey. Secretive but not obscure. Character-driven but not plot-impaired. Unpredictable but not random. Feingold pulls off his storytelling balancing act like a tightrope walker who lets us delight in the ultimate performance while barely noticing the years of practice.
- John Sheirer, author of Stumbling Through Adulthood: Linked Stories
Five star review
- Readers' Favorite
At once a love letter to family and an examination of the tension between carefree and careless youth and regretful middle age, this charming collection of stories is full of heart and humour and speaks not only of the lives of its characters but the lives of Eastern European immigrants in America and their children, what their new country made possible in their lives and what it delimited. Each story opens a window into a defining moment in a character's life, and together these moments make up a picture of American lives and immigrant traditions.
- Christian Livermore, author of We Are Not OK
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.
This collection of short stories includes themes of childhood, illness, divorce, death and remorse. To be honest, I was going to stop after the first few stories as they were a bit gloomy. However, the mood picked up and became reflections on the poignancy and joys of life. The stories were previously published as separate pieces, but gathered together they are a compendium of a blue-eyed blond Ukrainian Jew growing up in Boston.
The humor is mostly subtle, and I enjoyed most of the stories. My favorite was “The Sugar Thief,” aka Aunt Millie. Although married to a successful businessman, having homes in Boston and Florida, and drives a Cadillac, Aunt Millie steals all the sugar packets when dining out. Who knows when you will need them? The author explains how in his youth he found this embarrassing, but is now melancholy about the people who are no longer here. We probably all have an Aunt Millie in our past, and small reminders of those we loved and now miss.
The narrative writing is engaging and clearly tells a story, but I did feel some of the endings were a bit abrupt. This was a pleasant read, and by the end I was wishing for more.
A nice set of stories. This has variety in terms of the kinds of stories and I liked most of them. I may have to check out the author's other work.
Thanks very much for the free copy for review!!
The one of the best ways to test a writer's skills is to check their short stories. Within a limited number of pages, the author must introduce a character, build a community, craft a story and catch the read quickly or the story bombs. There are no bombs in Jeffrey Feingold's Black Hole Pastrami. Each story atrats with a thought that could easily have come to one of the readers as they sat watching the world go by. But Feingold took that thought and ran with it to a conclusion, and a good conclusion at that. I was absolutely delighted that I trusted the friend that recommended his book. I'd recommend to anyone who loves short stories or has those times when you don't want to start a longer title. This book is perfect for you.
I received a complimentary electronic ARC of this collection of short stories from Netgalley, author Jeffrey Feingold, and publisher The Pinch Literary Journal. I have read The Black Pastromi and Other Stories of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. I am pleased to add Jeffrey Feingold to my favorite authors and recommend his work to friends and family. This is timely - our storyteller is a first-generation American in a Jewish family who immigrated from Ukraine, and the central theme of these tales is family unity. He will keep you chuckling.
I loved these short stories - each with something different to ponder. Jeffrey Feingold is a keeper. If you fondly remember a 1950s childhood, several of these stories will take you right back to WWII reenactments, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Koolaide. If you weren't around in the 1950s you will appreciate this look into the impressive imaginations of our generation. I hope.
These are true to life tales that are high on the believability meter. We have all experienced something like this author. There is a bit of a snark wit. I do love me some snark. With toast and jam. You can tiptoe through these blooms in one sitting. Enjoy the dance. My thanks to the author and NetGalley for a complimentaryy copy of this book.
Even though I love reading short stories, I often don't finish contemporary ones that I start to read in books or magazines or in contest winners announcements. The stories tend to be too odd or too obscene or too "literary" . . . or at least they are trying to be "literary". Fortunately, Jeffrey Feingold writes the normal type of short stories I like to read. Many readers born in the two decades after WWII will understand and recognize what he is writing about, and what messages he is sending in his stories.
Messages about longing for the traditions and family gatherings so abundant in childhood, but so missing in adulthood. Older generations have died out and there are few or no one left. Many readers will also appreciate and identify with the author's sense of humor, especially the humor shown in the story about adopting a baby in Russia. Did you know all the female doctors in Russia look like they have stepped out of a James Bond movie? Or that Mr. Feingold looks like Bruce Willis?
(Note: I received a free e-ARC of this book from NetGalley and the author or publisher.)
This is a delightful collection of linked stories. While reading them, you might feel like you are having a laugh, remembering an embarrassing childhood memory, or thinking about how frustrating it might be to adopt a child from a foreign country, but each one is layered with a range of insight and emotions that you don’t realize you’ll be thinking about later.
Feingold has a gift for writing memory. The tales all sound autobiographical but they nudge out the humanity and memory in all of us. The stories written from a child’s viewpoint are not simple. One, a story of a third grader in love with his teacher, at first humorous, tackles belief and infinity. Another is about a child who is mortified by his aunt who always steals the sugar packets from the diner when they go out to eat. (Who doesn’t have such a relative?) But it is the backstory of why she does this that makes it poignant. In the father-son stories, the firmly planted roots of the importance of family leap off the page.
The title story is about a vegetarian son who goes to a deli to buy his dying father his favorite sandwich —a black pastrami on rye with extra mustard. This task becomes a reflection on the helplessness we feel in life.
While I would not say each story has a message, they reach for retrieving memory, understanding the tentativeness of life, and the power of love..
The writing style draws you in. I really didn’t want to let the characters go. I think I may read it again.