Academic journal article Philip Roth Studies

In Memoriam: Mark Shechner (1940-2015)

Academic journal article Philip Roth Studies

In Memoriam: Mark Shechner (1940-2015)

Article excerpt

Mark Shechner was a mensch. I first met Mark when he arrived at SUNY Buffalo in 1970 in the English Department. A modernist by trade, he was a specialist in James Joyce's writing, while, as a graduate student, I explored the dazzle of the new continental theory with Eugenio Donato and René Girard. In those days, our paths rarely crossed.

We met again in the early years of the new decade in the offshoot of the American Literature Association that became the Jewish American and Holocaust Literature Symposium (JAHLIT). He had written a book on Philip Roth with the irreverent title Up Society's Ass, Copper (2003) and, having migrated to Jewish Studies myself, I was impressed with his chutzpah, his panache, and the sheer brilliance of his mind. Here was an iconoclast I could fathom as a big brother. We admired similar women, swam together in the waters off A1A (near the now demolished Seagate Motel in Del Ray Beach, Florida, where the conference met in the early years), extolled the value of sea water for skin health, and generally communed around memories of Leslie Fiedler, who had recently died in his sleep and for whom Mark was arranging a memorial.

Again we lost contact. He showed up in my life for good one brisk fall evening after dinner at the newly named JAHLIT, now meeting at the Betsy Hotel in Miami. He was now a reader with Vicki Aarons for the Edward Lewis Wallant Awards, given annually in Hartford, Connecticut for the best Jewish writing of the year, and his mesmerizing treasure house of knowledge about Jewish literature, culture, and tradition was a thrill to engage. In this period and context, we sat in a café on the docks of Fisherman's Wharf of San Francisco during a meeting of the ALA. We talked of his new relationship with Nettie, whom he adored and whom I got to meet when he showed up with her at the eightieth birthday party for Philip Roth that Aimee Pozorski brilliantly arranged in Newark-which was Roth's, and as it turned out, Shechner's hometown. We met in a sports bar in Hollywood, Florida, with Vicki Aarons and Andy Gordon before the JAHLIT meeting in Miami, to watch together the games Mark so loved. …

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