Today, March 26th, marks two weeks until the launch of our second novella, The Sensualist. It is with what will surely, by the end of this letter, come off as poorly-suppressed eagerness, that I present the author Daniel Torday.
Let it go on record that I do not believe in fate. But I am quick to attribute things to crazy coincidence and uncanny timing. This novella is a result of both of those things. I say this because as an editor (well, as a person) I err toward caution. I am slow to pull the trigger, so to speak, often to a fault. But this was not the case with Dan (who is the guy on your right, pictured with his daughter Abby a few years ago.)
This past fall, among various other publications, my staff read through the Five Chapters archives and flagged stories that caught their attention. Among them was “Bubi Grynszpan Dreams Assassination Dreams,” which was passed on to me for consideration. The story elicited a response in me that could be described in great length, but to put it simply, to distill it down its core, during the half hour it took me to finish the piece, it became quite clear that I was in the hands of a singular and effortless storyteller (and Dan will surely dispute this, for he is a writer of that endearing-yet-maddeningly-modest variety.) At the risk of exposing too much about my personal preferences, Dan’s writing seemed to me refreshingly unexperimental. Unself-conscious. The prose aimed to serve the task at hand, which was, through and through, to tell a story that would move its reader. To describe how two strangers connect and fail to connect—how they in turn, expose themselves and turn away from what is human.
In the following days I read what I could of Dan’s work (see the Recommended Reading below) and was struck again and again by Dan’s unfettered approach, by his command of language. By his sense of humor and maybe above all, his empathy. I wrote to him to let him know how much I was enjoying his work and to see if he had, by chance, anything in the 10K-40K word range sitting around. I tried not to think about how unreasonable my disappointment would be if he did not.
And what do you know.
It was a few more weeks before he sent it over. The Sensualist (which went by a different title back then) had been a novel once, a manuscript he’d worked on during his MFA at Syracuse. But with this recent prompting, the novel was further shorn of scenes that he had questioned before. It was reconsidered and tightened and distilled down to—well, a novella. A narrative that is lucid and heartbreaking, that insists on being told.
On April 9th at midnight, four hundred signed and numbered copies of The Sensualist will be available for purchase. Every patron will receive a handwritten thank-you note from the author as well as a bookmark with a QR code that provides access to materials that inspired the text (Dostoevsky and Fitzgerald, mostly). In the meantime, read up on the rest of Dan’s work and the first chapter of the novella. See what a bunch of other terrific writers have to say about it.
FiveChapters: Bubi Grynszpan Dreams Assassination Dreams
Fifty-Two Stories: The Weightlifters
Glimmer Train, Issue #80: Twins
The Kenyon Review: The Duct Tape Brother
The Glimmer Train Bulletin: A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Parent
Raised in Baltimore in the ‘90s, 17-year-old Samuel Gerson is ready to be rid of his high school baseball team, his protective upbringing, and the tight-knit Jewish community in which he’s spent his whole life. But when he befriends enigmatic Dmitri Zilber, a recent Russian Jewish immigrant who is obsessed with the works of Dostoevsky, Samuel’s world begins to shift. In the wake of his grandfather’s suicide, as his life increasingly entangles with that of Dmitri and his beautiful sister Yelizaveta, it sets in motion a series of events that culminates in a disturbing act of violence. A quietly devastating portrait of late adolescence, The Sensualist examines the culture we inherit as it collides with the one we create.
Praise for The Sensualist:
“I throw at you, without reservation, this adjective: masterful. This book is fast and warm, fraught and intimate—and no slouch in the funny department, either. Daniel Torday’s voice is entirely his own. Baltimore is his. Dmitri Zilber is a brilliant character, and I am in love with his sister. I am constantly happy to be in their presence.”
—Adam Levin, author of The Instructions
“Daniel Torday has written an altogether new kind of historical fiction: one that filters the legacy of war through two boys’ evolving friendship and its tragic unraveling. Torday shows us how these kids are themselves bullied into committing a crime by events that stretch back to Moscow, the labor camps of the Ukraine. The result is an often-hilarious, always powerfully-moving portrait of adolescence as haunted foosball game. With subtlety, humor, and compassion, Torday gives us a coming of age story that is also a record of war’s second life, lived by the generation who never experienced war directly, but who proceed through life in its inescapable shadow.”
—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
“Daniel Torday has clearly mastered the acoustics of experience, the mechanics of how the small actions of anyone, of everyone, echo and resonate against the history we all share. With perfectly rendered details of adolescent life in 1990’s Baltimore and a large-hearted memory of other times, other places, The Sensualist has the rare, unmistakable quality of feeling necessary. A brilliant debut.”
—Robin Black, author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
“In this tenderly told novella, Daniel Torday brings the singular essence of Baltimore vividly to life, and lifts the beating heart of boyhood out of the halls of high school and straight onto the page. But The Sensualist does more than that: quietly, carefully, beneath the surface, it charts the arc of a childhood lost, a life irrevocably turned. Dmitri Zilber is a character so strongly imagined he’ll fill your own imagination for days; Sam Gerson will draw you close as if to your own childhood friend; and the friendship between the two of them will stay with you long after you set this beautiful book down.”
—Josh Weil, author of The New Valley
“Charting the course of a complicated friendship, Daniel Torday writes beautifully and believably about the agonies, and occasional delights, of late adolescence. This passionate, powerful and shrewdly observed novella packs a massive emotional wallop.”
—Adrienne Miller, author of The Coast of Akron
Each launch package is $16.50, including shipping, and the opportunity to own an early piece of Dan’s career ceases at midnight on April 16th, so be sure to get back over here between then and April 9th. If you don’t get one during launch week, the novella will be available at Dan’s release party at The Tire Fire Reading Series in Philadelphia at Tattooed Mom, 6pm on April 1st (and he’ll be reading with Adam Levin and Jaime Fountaine! Philly gets a sneak peek and killer lineup). He’ll also be at BookCourt in Brooklyn on Wednesday, May 16th at 7pm. A few more readings will be announced at a later date.
As always, thank you for your support. You’re going to be glad you’re keeping your eye on Dan. He has some good stuff in his corner. Consider this a prompting to have some uncanny timing of your own.
LAUNCH CLOSED ON APRIL 17th
Thank you for the support; the launch was a tremendous success! Books will ship at the beginning of next week. The e-book will be available shortly, as well as a list of bookstores and events that will be carrying The Sensualist. Check back with us soon.