So I wear two different coloured socks to the office. Brown and blue. Black and purple. Grey and white. Most people don’t look at your socks anyway and I’m careful enough not to show them around, well, not to most people anyway. Just to a select few who might understand. And there aren’t many of those. Now maybe you’re wondering what is going on with that Levy fellow and why is he telling us this. Because I’m a writer, that’s why. Let me explain.
My name is Jerry Levy and I live in Toronto, Ontario. And this past year was one of the most brutal on record. Blisteringly cold. A lot of times I wore two pairs of socks. But I digress. You see, I didn’t always live in Toronto, and I didn’t always wear different coloured socks. So let me take you back. I went to high school in Montreal and it was there that I developed a love of reading. I also tried my hand at writing and I always remember that my old English class teacher Ms. Schuster told me in private I should be a writer, that I had a great imagination and a certain fluency with words. So I took her up on that and wrote all throughout high school. I never showed my work to anyone though, it was my own private secret. But it made me so happy, this stash of private stories. Then when I went to university, a strange thing happened – I no longer wrote! I studied and it wasn’t English literature either. I graduated from Concordia University with a B.Comm degree. A general business degree but with an emphasis on Economics (supply and demand and all that stuff). There just never seemed to be enough time to indulge in my writing. After university, it wasn’t any different – I landed a job with a very large insurance company and rose up through the ranks. I was always traveling, always in meetings. This went on for years. The problem was that I wasn’t happy, my life was seriously out-of-balance. I knew I had to change things so I took baby steps – I started yoga classes, joined a musical percussion group, and then did what I should have been doing all along…I took a creative writing class.
Now I wasn’t a very good writer at first, emulating everyone from Kafka to DH Lawrence to Gabriel Marquez. It took me a while to find my own voice. Anyway, this time I embraced my writing and didn’t let it go. Which made me a much happier person. Gradually I became better and started sending my stories out to literary magazines. And much to my surprise, a few were accepted! A small miracle. The entire experience made me realize I could actually write, that there was a market for my work. That was about 10 years ago and more recently, in the fall of 2013, a collection of 14 short stories, entitled Urban Legend, was published by Thistledown Press here in Canada. The book is available at all bookstores, Amazon, through Kindle and Kobo, my publisher’s website, and so on.
So about the socks. I guess you’re wondering. Well, for many years I played the corporate guy. And while I still work in the corporate world, my priorities have shifted dramatically. I now work in order to live decently, and to foster my more creative side…my writing, of course. So when I venture to work, I always have the different coloured socks on…they never do match. I do that purposely, to remind myself of whom I am – this highly creative guy and not a corporate drone. Sounds strange but it really works for me.
So can I tell you about Urban Legend? At the heart of this collection is the notion of ‘loss.’ More specifically, I’m talking about the loss of a spouse, ideals, dreams, integrity, and so on. And to further that, the ways in which people attempt to mitigate those losses, some of which are very strange indeed. These are people who are outsiders, who don’t seem to quite fit in. They may want to, but try as they might, they just can’t seem to bridge the gap. A couple of the stories have aspects of magic realism, like The Golem of New York City, which is about a man whose fiancée dies. Totally distraught, he enlists the aid of a rabbi schooled in Kaballah, the mystical aspect of Judaism, to help him erect a golem in the image of that fiancée. (golems are mythological creatures constructed from the mud and clay of riverbanks) Many of the stories are city-centric, with urban settings. And as I mentioned, they deal with people who long to fit in, to fill some void in their lives, like the woman in the story Urban Legend, who can’t find a job with her liberal arts degree and so decides to rob banks (spoiler alert!)
So if you decide you’d like to read Urban Legend, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. The stories are so different than anything you’ll have read before. I have my own voice and it really is a distinctive one. And attached you’ll find a copy of the media kit my publisher sent to the media; it tells you more about the book, me, and my next project.
Jerry Levy has a longstanding commitment to short fiction. His short stories have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies throughout Canada, the U.S., and the U.K., including The Nashwaak Review, The Flaneur, Lowestoft Chronicle, and Pilot Pocket Book. He has a B.Comm degree from Concordia University in Montreal and a T.E.S. L. (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate from C.C.L.C.S. (Canadian Co-operative for Language and Cultural studies) in Toronto. Of his varied interests, Jerry has practiced Hatha yoga for many years, studied acupuncture, and performed with a number of percussion music groups. He lives in Toronto, Ontario. Urban Legend is his first book.
Advance Praise for Jerry Levy’s Urban Legend
“Jerry Levy’s Urban Legend is folklore from the edge. The characters in these stories mine life’s odd corners for inventive ways to make sense of their lives. A confident, engaging debut.” (Sally Cooper, author of Tell Everything, 2008)
“In their off-kilter quest for money, love, or fame, Levy’s misfit narrators plunge into dark situations of their own making. Bleakly comic, these tales engage as well as provoke.” (Ann Ireland, author of The Blue Guitar, 2013)
“I’ve been lucky enough to read a copy of this book before the publication date, and can thoroughly recommend it. It’s like being in some kind of hybrid art gallery/bookstore at times. There are many compelling stories in the collection, each written in Levy’s effortless style. You’ll want more at the end.” (Elle Pryor, editor of The Sim Review)
In this collection of gritty, urban tales, Jerry Levy encapsulates the essence of troubled individuals each attempting to mitigate loss by searching for their own personal antidote. These city-centric stories encompass a wide variety of cultures, characters from varying social strata, and earnest examinations of how individuals react when forced out of their comfort zone.
In “Paris is a Woman”, we meet a man hoping that by escaping to liberating Paris, he will heal his uncontrollable emotions but, as he discovers, it is not easy to run away from yourself. “The Golem of New York” features personal devastation leading to desperation and esoteric experimentation. In “Stolen Words”, the protagonist uncovers a trove of unpublished literary works that he hopes will result in fame and stolen fortune.
Levy’s smart stories are driven by well-paced action and a gift for capturing the vigour of people in the midst of serious emotional upheaval. Urban Legend is filled with tough-minded, arresting prose but also moments of eloquence and grace. Levy’s relentless pursuit to delve inside the minds of his characters gives Urban Legend a psychologically intense, compelling edge which, in addition to the emotional depth created by the author, raises Levy’s characters from the page and places them firmly in the mind of the reader.
Some Questions and Responses with Jerry Levy
Q. Did you do any research for Urban Legend?
A. For the story “The Golem of New York City”, I researched golems and the Kabbalah, the more esoteric or mystical aspect of Judaism. In Jewish lore, golems are mythological creatures that have typically been erected from the mud and clay of riverbanks to help the Jews in times of need, such as during pogroms.
I also did some research on the illness Morgellons for the story of the same name, and on the phenomenon of a doppelganger for “The Doppelganger”. For “Paris is a Woman”, I checked various gravesites at the Père Lachaise cemetery when I was visiting the city.
I know there’s an old adage that says writers should write what they know; however, I prefer to delve into areas that I’m not particularly familiar with. I say that because most people’s lives are fairly routine and if we only wrote what we knew about, that could lead to some very boring prose indeed!
Q. Why do you write?
A. I’ve never really given this question much thought. All I can say is that writing is as natural to me as breathing. I know that after university, when I embarked on a career in the corporate world, I didn’t write for many years. And I felt something was definitely missing. So I took up writing after being away from it and it gave me a much better life/work balance. The ‘loss’ I referred to earlier (in Question 1) stems from my having given up writing for all those years; it is something I never forgot and it permeates many of my stories.
Q. Can you tell us a bit more about the stories in Urban Legend?
A. This is how I would describe the collection: Whether erecting a golem in the image of a deceased loved one, posing as a patient with a debilitating illness, leaving secure jobs and long-time spouses to live the bohemian life in Paris, or eschewing anarchist ideologies to nurse creatures that should not exist, nothing is sacred in this collection of stories. Myth and imagination hold equal weight, authenticity and fable go hand-in-hand, and the lines between reality and illusion blur. The stories reveal the plight of outsiders to readers in a way that make them feel part of the inner circle. Characters find themselves trapped or, at least, incapable of restoring their humanity. Underlying their failures is a tacit suggestion that they could have won out with more imagination, more strength, or simply with some encouragement. It may be sobering to observe such forays into darkness but it can’t be all gloom, you’ll also laugh uproariously at times.
Q. What’s your next project after Urban Legend?
A. I’ve nearly completed a novel that has a working title The Writer and the Rabbi.
It’s about a woman who is a failed writer and has lost all interest in life. She basically goes through the motions, her dream of writing prose in tatters. And then she meets an Orthodox Rabbi who no longer believes in God and is going through an existential crisis. The two appear destined to meet.
After honing the craft of writing short stories for many years, I thought I would try my hand with a novel.
The official launch will be held at the Victory Café, Toronto, on October 20th.
Reading at the Literary Café, Oakville, on November 17th.
Jerry Levy will be taking a brief promotional trip to Montreal in December 2013 where he will be reading at the Magical Evening of Canadian Authors event.
Other readings in the Toronto and surrounding region will be taking place in the coming months and will be announced via the Thistledown website.
Print ISBN: 978-1-927068-45-8
Price: $18.95 CAD
Trim Size: 5.5” x 8.5”
Page Count: 265
Publication Date: October 1st, 2013
Genre: Literary Short Fiction
For further information on Jerry Levy or Urban Legend, please contact:
Urban Legend is available in physical and ebook formats from all major booksellers, both online and in the real world, and from several wonderful independent bookstores across Canada.