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Monday, February 18, 2019

Finding the figure inside

“I think the hardest part of writing is revising. And by that I mean the following: A novelist has to create the piece of marble and then chip away to find the figure in It.” – Chaim Potok

Born in the Bronx on Feb. 17, 1929, Potok was an American Jewish author and rabbi (he died of cancer in 2003).  His first book, The Chosen, published in 1967, was listed on The New York Times’ bestseller list for 39 weeks and sold more than 3.4 million copies.

Ultimately authoring 19 books and the 14-volume Jewish Ethics, still taught in numerous University religion courses, Potok also was a renowned scholar and teacher.  He taught a highly regarded graduate seminar on Postmodernism at the University of Pennsylvania from 1993 through 2001 until a diagnosis of brain cancer stopped his career and further writing.             Also an artist, he recreated the painting "The Brooklyn Crucifixion,” which his character Asher Lev painted in his novel My Name is Asher Lev.  Asher, he said, was somewhat based on his own life and family conflicts that arose over whether he should or should not pursue a writing career.  Many characters in that book were based on people in Potok’s own life.

“I think most serious writers, certainly in the modern period, use their own lives or the lives 
of people close to them or lives they have heard about as the raw material for their creativity.”

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