Leo Litwak, the author of the finest memoir of WWII combat I have read by an American, The Medic, again demonstrates his superb gift for narrative in this astonishing collection of short stories, Nobody’s Baby. His insights into the complex motives of human behavior and the effects we have on each other feel utterly true. In these largely urban stories, Litwak presents us with a fascinating collection of characters, people largely under stress, people with the ordinary daily courage to endure because they must. He can be outrageously comic in stories that finally make you weep. The prose moves with that necessity we associate with true poetry. It is so rare to encounter such mastery and such humility in the same book.
—Phillip Levine, Recommended in Ploughshares, Fall 2005
Long after reading these stories, I find myself feeling for everybody—
Lorrie, Paula, Shirley and Wesley, Alice and her son Emory, Heartless Willy. The people in Leo Litwak's fine stories make the reader laugh and cry. Nobody's Baby is at once fun and tragic. A most satisfying book.
—Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Fifth Book of Peace
Leo Litwak has followed his great World War II memoir, The Medic, with an extraordinary collection of short stories. Nobody's Baby is the work of an artist of deep compassion and insight, equipped with an impeccable control of storytelling craft. With these resources he probes human behavior, values and spirit in ways that bring his stories affectingly to life. This is important fiction, fiction of the first rank. The final tale, "Heartless
Willie," can stand with the most moving short stories of our time.
—Leonard Gardner, author of Fat City
His terse stories build to an explosive pressure point— and the characters escape, transform, or make a motion toward grace.
—Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun
Nobody's Baby is full of what wakes you up in the night— life, not made-up
monsters. Litwak says it himself: "With a point of view always on the bias
toward irony," he is "possessed by the illusion that the issue of life is
pleasure." The bad seed holes up with his mom in her retirement, Heartless Willy survives a pogrom, a patient tries to strangle his doctor and recovers. A deft writer and a wonderful read.
—Terese Svoboda, author of Trailer Girl and Other Stories
Here are eight stories about "ecstatic, ferocious, incandescent, dangerous" characters, many of them frankly mad, who force their more ordinary fathers, mothers, daughters and students into the difficult acceptance of love. Litwak writes with an intimate, commanding cadence that compels attention. These are stories you will not only read, but hear in your heart for years after.
—Molly Giles, author of Iron Shoes: A Novel
Leo Litwak's stories are expert, funny, alive, full of quiet fury. Nobody's Baby reveals Litwak's talent for mourning the loss of feeling and affection
in our own mad America, where philosophers live in palaces and waltz around with a bent back.
—Jerome Charyn, author of Bronx Boy: A Memoir
"Leo Litwak's stories are sharp, subtle, surprising, and wonderfully true to life."
—Lynn Freed, author of The Curse of the Appropriate Man
Leo Litwak's stories are painful, sometimes funny, and always affecting.
They delineate wayward lives, inappropriate behavior, the impossible
requirements of love. They will deftly, almost imperceptibly, hook you— and then they will not let you go.
—Kim Addonizio, author of Tell Me and Little Beauties
A master chronicler of domestic pain, Leo Litwak brings to his stories a
kindly spirit and a mind that pierces every excuse we give for failing one
another. In less gifted hands, some of his characters might seem monsters of self-absorption; in Litwak's they are tortured souls— awful,
to be sure, but inescapably human, and with implacable claims. Those
who find the claims compelling--sons, mothers, neighbors, husbands, wives—twist in their suffocating traps: can they flee or must they stay? And with spare, incisive prose Litwak makes us bleed for human anguish.
—Celia Morris, author of Finding Celia's Place
It was a pleasure to read open-ended, formally beautiful modern fictions
with all the old pull of sheer story. Whereas many of us write the same
narratives over and over and reuse ourselves disguised as different
protagonists, each Litwak story requires the reader to get in touch with,
and get on the inside of, new people in settings that are able to surprise.
What these characters have heartbreakingly in common is their search
for a consoling, or redeeming love without which they will not be able to live out their own fates, fates that are worth being lived. We can give ourselves to these stories because they are trustworthy--
don't reach for the purple, or special effects. The prose, like Kafka's,
has an achieved plainness that puts one foot before the other on the march toward conclusions that are really appointments with the old beginnings. The stories had this reader in such thrall that I found
myself wanting to believe, against my better knowledge, that these
new acquaintances, these new neighbors of mine might have found
—Lore Segal, author of Other People's Houses
Whether writing about an emotionally entangled sportswriter or spectators, artists or academics, therapy or theater, Upper Peninsula Michigan or downtown San Francisco, Leo Litwak inevitably explores
love and the infinite yet specific way it always matters in shadow and
light. Whatever the voice, whatever the catch, whatever the moment upon
which a story turns, he bears dramatic witness. Delivering all the feeling,
color and well-told detail any reader needs to jump from one body or one
heart into another, his kinetic, prose-cinematic stories speak directly to
the angel-and-demon resident in each of us.
—Al Young, author of The Sound of Dreams Remembered
Leo Litwak writes with wonderful grace, economy, and wit. His stories
have a look of permanence and are a sheer pleasure to read.
—Bill Barich, author of Carson Valley
I've long admired Leo Litwak as a novelist and memoirist. This book
demonstrates that he's also a master of the short story, tender, funny
—Cyra McFadden, author of The Serial
Deeply serious in their engagement, Leo Litwak's stories paradoxically
attain a high level of the best kind of wit, that is: precision, concision,
an exact naming of reality. The struggle to go deep into the reality of our lives is rarely so engaging. Litwak is one of the best writers of our time.
—Herbert Gold, author of Daughter Mine
Leo Litwak's admirable stories of love and desperation are exciting, intense, and troubling.
—Oakley Hall, author of Ambrose Bierce and the Tray of Pearls
Recipient of John Simon Guggenheim and National Endowment for
the Arts fellowships, Leo Litwak has published two novels, two works
of nonfiction, and articles in publications including The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, and Tikkun. Waiting for the News received the
National Jewish Book Award; his short fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories; and "The Eleventh Edition" received first prize
in the 1990 O. Henry Prize Stories collection. Professor at San Francisco State University for more than thirty years, Leo Litwak lives in San Francisco.
Paperback: 216 pages
Published:El Leon; August 2005
Fiction, Short Stories