Sunday, November 24, 2019

Q&A with Mark Binder

Mark Binder is the author of the new book The Misadventures of Rabbi Kibbitz and Mrs. Chaipul, the latest in his series of stories about the village of Chelm. His many other books include A Hanukkah Present. He is a former editor of The Rhode Island Jewish Herald, and is a professional storyteller.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new book?

A: I like to compare this group of stories to the old rye bread commercial… you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them.

That said, I’ve been writing what I call my “Life in Chelm” series for years. I was working as the editor of The Rhode Island Jewish Herald and a reporter didn’t turn in a story, so I wrote one.

I’ve written hundreds of stories for Jewish and non-Jewish newspapers and magazines, and published two collections and a novel of Chelm – A Hanukkah Present (which was the finalist for the National Jewish Book Award for Family Literature), Matzah Mishugas and of course The Brothers Schlemiel.

Although the books are a “series” they can be read in any order.

Many of the tales involved wise Rabbi Kibbitz and Mrs. Chaipul the caterer, so it seemed natural they'd finally get together.

I collected several favorites, wrote some new ones and created The Misadventures of Rabbi Kibbitz and Mrs. Chaipul. I call it “a novel of stories for adults.”

Q: What do you think accounts for the ongoing interest in the Chelm stories?

A: First of all they’re funny. Chelm stories are culturally Jewish but rarely religious, so non-Jews, Orthodox, Reform and non-practicing Jews, children and adults can all enjoy them. They’re both ageless and timeless. We need a lot of humor these days.

Q: Do you think a reader would have to be familiar with the older Chelm stories to appreciate your book?

A: Not at all.

Q: How would you describe the humor in your book--and in earlier versions of these stories?

A: The older “Helm” stories are little more than short jokes with (to be honest) flat characters. My stories have robust characters, real people who grow and change over time.

They are no more foolish than you or I. But their neighbors are certain that the villagers are fools.

Many people think that these are stories for children. Some are, but The Misadventures is a book meant for adults — and there are some stories your children will enjoy.

Most of my Chelm stories are good for a chuckle and a laugh. All of them will make you smile.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Almost as soon as I finished the last chapter of The Misadventures, I started writing new stories. So… there is a sequel in the works!

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: In addition to being an author, I’m a performance storyteller. I love traveling around the world telling tales to audiences of all ages. Storytelling is a way to bring generations together.

That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed making the audiobook for The Misadventures, it’s a lovely listen.

You can find The Misadventures of Rabbi Kibbitz and Mrs. Chaipul in print, ebook and audiobook wherever such things are sold. 

For more information about my live storytelling programs, please visit my website.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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