Smoking with Paul Silverman

Read the Story December 15, 2006

I’m afraid to ask, but here goes. Who or what was the inspiration for Lefky?

Years ago I saw La Strada, and the image of the strongman stuck with me. I also wanted to go against Jewish type-casting. Not all Jews are bookish. In the old country there were people who were poor and did grunt work with a pick and shovel. Some of these men could lift a horse.

Call me cuckoo, but I sense something about fathers here in this very original and clever piece. Yes?

This is about the strength of a father and the loss of a father. The twist is that the loss is expressed through the experience of a non-human creature, whose life has revolved around Lefky so much he sees him as a father.

How did a barking parrot find its way into your writing?

A friend once told my wife about a parrot who learned the name of the postman, Walter, and kept saying it long after Walter left and a new postman took his place. What was it about the old postman that kept him saying the name? This enigma somehow gave me my bird character, who seemed as if he could only bark but in fact was capable of yearning aloud in Yiddish.

What writing are you currently working on? When last we spoke, your short fiction was finding a home in some very exclusive places. What’s been going on since then?

I wish I could say I’d found a story with the range to be a novel, but my sweet spot still seems to be 5000 words or less. The advantage is I get to the end faster and I can begin something new. There’s comfort in that.

The 2005 Edge Annual World Question (www.edge.org) asked a question that the BBC called “fantastically stimulating.” One year later, we ask you this same question: “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?”

That human beings really are no more intelligent or special than a dog or a bug or a parrot. We can’t do what they do, and they can’t do what we do. It’s as simple as that.

About the Author:

Paul Silverman has worked as a newspaper reporter, sandwich man, olive packer and advertising creative director. One of his commercials won a Silver Lion at Cannes. His stories have appeared in Tampa Review, The South Dakota Review, The North Atlantic Review, Word Riot, In Posse Review, The Pedestal Magazine, The Timber Creek Review, The Front Range Review, The Jabberwock Review, Jewish Currents, The Coe Review, Hobart Online, Amarillo Bay, The Adirondack Review, The Paumanok Review, Subterranean Quarterly, Thieves Jargon, Lily, The Summerset Review, and others. His piece, "Getaway," published by Verbsap, is on the 2006 Million Writers Award shortlist of Notable Online Stories. Byline Magazine and The Worcester Review have nominated his stories to the Pushcart Committee. New work was recently accepted by Oyster Boy Review, Cricket Online Review and Alimentum.

About the Artist:

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist (21 November 1898 - 15 August 1967).