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Scattered Diamonds

For the past dozen years, I have been listed in LMP, which stands for Literary Market Place, and which is the big book for people in the publishing industry. My original ambition was to list my small press in its onionskin pages, but over time I settled for being listed as a book reviewer, specializing in titles having to do with information technology, cyberculture, and emerging organiztional forms.

As a result, I get a lot of books in the mail, and a lot of book hustles, mainly from first-time players who have shelled out tons of their own money to publish their dream books, only to find the market to be uninterested in their dreams. Ah, literature.

Long story not so long, a few weeks ago I recieved this e-mail:

Dear Colleague –

In early middle age, my sister Renee Shield and I discovered that we were
entertaining different but related ideas about looking into our family history of diamond-dealing — Renee as a professional anthropologist, me as a novelist and short story writer.

As a Brown anthropologist, Renee realized that our uncles’ work in diamonds,
both in Antwerp and New York, was an exotic area that she had personal access to and professional training for. Better yet, this was a group that seemed traditionally impervious to investigation, and was ripe for an intimate look by an insider.

Meanwhile, I was undergoing a divorce and wondering how to connect my children with our greater family. I found myself wanting to introduce them to family members who had survived travail far greater than what we were facing, and I came to realize that diamonds figured in their stories of survival.

Voila! — each of us arrived at a point where we were researching our family history of diamonds, but from distinctly different angles. We had different things we were seeking, but we both reached back a couple of generations in order to solve our various yearnings in the present day.

As it turned out, our projects turned into massive undertakings that took a
decade for each of us to complete. But the results are deeply satisfying to
us both. Renee’s book, Diamond Stories: Enduring Change on 47th Street (just published by Cornell) has been hailed as a close-up look at the
culture of diamond trade, a culture the outside world has never been privy
to before.

My memoir, Hiding Places: A Father and his Sons Retrace Their Family’s Escape from the Holocaust (just out in paperback with Three Rivers
Press) has earned starred reviews in both Publishers Weekly (“brilliant”)
and Kirkus (“extraordinary”), a coveted place on the BookSense 76 list, and accolades from such writers as Cynthia Ozick, Anne Rophe, Hugh Nissennson, Peter Kramer, Anne Bernays, and others.

And so on and so forth, blah, blah, blah. But what stopped me in my tracks was the letter writer’s name — Daniel Asa Rose. I knew that name from somewhere. All day I banged my head on my desktop, trying to come up with it. Then there it was — New Haven, 1980.

My friend Andrew Ward held a party at his home on St. Ronan Street. All his writer friends — proteges comes close to suggesting the typical relationship, as Andy was prety successful, and the rest of us were eyeing the trashbarrels for protein — showed up, including one Daniel Asa Rose.

I wrote Daniel back, asking if he were not the same man I met that night, and he confessed to everything:

“Michael! Tis you? By God, we did meet at Andy’s blow-out in New Haven! I remember side-swiping my mother’s station wagon against three parked cars the same night. You weren’t one of them, were you? How the hell have you been?”

About Mike

  • http://www.wonderblog.blogspot.com Murphy Horner

    These books sound really interesting!
    It’s quite touching that you two should turn out to know each other.
    But from your description, these books sound like a good way to understand diamonds, which are an important factor in the world. It’s easier to get a handle on such a broad subject when you can do it from a personalized perspective, such as: one family’s experience with the diamond trade.