‘The Shiksa Syndrome’

Dec. 4. Watch here. Temple Israel

(My previous interviews with Laurie.)

Author Laurie Graff, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, dropped her pet at doggie daycare on Highland before coming tonight.

Laurie: "It’s my brother’s birthday this Saturday. He has a big party. I was coming out for this party. My book was released last month. How could I come to Los Angeles and not do things? You need to have friends in high places. My really good friend Terry Feinstein’s husband Danny Maseng is the cantor here. I lost my good neighbors from upstate New York. They moved out here in July and hooked up with Stefanie [Steingold].

Laurie: "The origins of this book were born when I lived out here in Los Angeles. I moved out with a bunch of friends… My friend Ellen came out and brought me into a writers group that Susan Mercin (sp?), a member of this synagogue, leads.

"I was having dates out here with some of the identical men I had dated in New York. Everybody moved out [here] to break into television, etc. I had played all the counter girls in TV commercials. It seemed like I was from Pennsylvania. It was very nice. People would say, ‘She’s cute! The shiksa!’ It was always a compliment. Nice. Then I came here and it was like I was wearing a neon sign saying, ‘New York Jew!’"

"I had a date two weeks ago…and I offered to get some cookies and he said, ‘Don’t be so Jewish!’ Would somebody say, ‘Don’t be so Italian’?"

"There are all these assumptions that happen and they keep people separate."

"When I was out here and noticed this, I started to say, ‘Hmm, maybe this guy has a bissel shiksa syndrome.’ I started to write about it. I wrote a four page essay that turned into a short story that turned into the arc of my first novel, You Have To Kiss A Lot Of Frogs."

"When it came time to write another book, my agent said to me, ‘What do you want to write?’ I said, ‘It’s such a pity. I used ‘Shiksa Syndrome’ in ‘You Have To Kiss A Lot Of Frogs’ as the arc. It would’ve made a great stand-alone piece.’ She said, ‘Do it! Keep the same premise. A Jewish girl pretends to be a shiksa to catch a Jewish guy. And make up a whole new story and a whole new character.’"

"I started to think, what kind of girl would do this, aside from an actress? There’s a certain amount of fantasy in this book where you just stretch because the girl goes deeper and deeper… She digs herself into this lie that happens quite accidentally."

"I’ve been working in PR these past half dozen years. I started to think about branding and back to the assumptions. People buy brands… This girl represents a girl I’d want to be."

"In the original Heartbreak Kid with Charles Grodin, nobody said Jewish but if you watch carefully, when he marries Jeannie Berlin in the first scene, he is wearing a yarmulke and they break the glass, and Jeannie Berlin is portrayed as this awful whiny nasal kvetchy [wife]… Maybe that’s what they had to do to this Jewish woman so that you would buy that he didn’t want to stay married to her. Then he meets Cybil Shepard on the beach [the quintessential shiksa]."

"I pitched this book to Shape magazine last week. I told this editor the title of the book. She laughed. I asked her if she knew what a shiksa is. She said, ‘I sure do. A shiksa is a very attractive blonde woman who likes Jewish men.’"

"I was talking to Luke Ford. He has a great blog. He was interviewing me for ‘Good Frog’. We were talking about stereotypes… You can identify. So much of what I write has to do with New York. That’s why I felt like a fish out of water when I lived here… After the traffic here today, I’m never coming back. I can’t handle it."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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