the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: literary

Fictional Characters of New York — #36


My name is Joseph. I’m a novelist living in Manhattan. My latest novel, “Upper West Side” was skewered in this month’s New York magazine by a young, feminist book critic. She called my female characters “cardboard cutouts” and “male fantasies” who only spoke about love, sex, and romance.

“Has this male author ever listened to real New York women talking with each other?” she wrote.   “I suggest that he leave his apartment one day and stop wanking off onto his page.  When I am with my BFFs we rarely talk about love, sex, and romance.  We discuss feminism, racism, literary criticism, pop culture, and the best new places to get Indian food. This is a book that should die a slow death. Shame on you Random House for publishing such tripe!”

I have to admit, I was hurt by this review.  And the comments were even worse, especially the ugly one where someone suggested women should get together in book clubs and discuss fun ways to cut off my dick.

But I’m not the type of guy to lash out. I believe that criticism is important, and I always try to learn and grow.  Criticism of your work is part of the job.

And maybe the book critic was right.   I do live a solitary life.   Writing is a lonely profession, and I spend countless hours by myself.   Maybe I need to understand women better.

Wasn’t it just last Saturday that my daughter, Julia, suggested I go on a date with someone, maybe one of my editors?

“I’m too busy for dating,” I told her. “I need to write.”

Besides, Saturday exists for my daughter.   Saturday is my happiest day.  Julia lives in Connecticut with her mother and step-father, and I live for our one day a week to see a Broadway show or new foreign film.

But how can I be a good father if I don’t understand women?   Is this why my marriage failed?  Did I not understand Kathy?   Do I only see women under the filter of  love, sex, and romance, but not living with the same worldly dreams, ambitions, and goals of men?

I decided to take the book reviewer’s advice to heart.   After lunch, I closed my laptop, and I took a walk down Broadway, something I never do in the middle of the week.   I continued downtown until I noticed three women sitting on a bench, chatting together. They were of different ages; I assumed they were related. I took my position on a bench across from them and closed my eyes to focus on their voices and conversation. I wanted to learn, “What DO women really talk about?”

And I listened.   One woman, I think the younger one, had a higher-pitched voice. The older woman was tentative in her speech, but the others responded with respect for her life experience.  The third woman was the most educated.   She mentioned her advanced degree from Columbia at least three times.

The feminist book critic from New York magazine was correct. I listened with my eyes closed for forty minutes, and NONE of these women mentioned the subjects of love, sex, and romance.

What did they talk about?    They discussed a job opening at a publishing house, an acquaintance who was recently unfriended on Facebook,  a vacation rental apartment in Prague, a sale on fall jackets at Burlington Coat Factory, a recipe for challah for Rosh Hashanah, whether Hillary Clinton would be a good president, and where to find a good math tutor for the middle woman’s struggling son.

I had finally learned what women discuss with each other.

“Basically, love, sex, and romance,” I said to myself.

I chuckled, then returned home to write a new book.

Fictional Characters of New York — #35


“What’s that ring tone?” asked the customer, a young black man with dreadlocks.

“It’s an old song. From the 60’s. When I was young.”

Milt sold shady, refurbished, jail-broken cell phones from a corner in Astoria, Queens. Everyone from the local high school knew where they could find him — the strange old man slumped over in his torn windbreaker, and kept his “merchandise” in the back of a broken down Ford van.   Today was a busy day for Milt.   With the introduction of the iPhone 6 the day earlier, students of Benjamin Franklin High School knew that he was getting rid of the iPhone 5s for cheap.

Milt never dreamed that he would be spending his Golden Years selling contraband iPhones and Androids to selfie-addicted high school students.  He was not a techie.  He attended Brooklyn law school back in the day. That’s where he met Renee.  It was also the start of his drinking, first one glass, and then as winter approached, a whole bottle of Dewar’s at night.  Milt always said that he didn’t hit Renee across the face that Christmas night.  The liquor did. But it was the start of the end. Renee moved to California and never returned his calls, back when telephones were still attached to the walls.

Milt had no interest in cell phone technology.  He saw a business opportunity. He knew the kids loved the phones, and it was better than selling them drugs.

“What that ring tone?” every young customer would ask him, boy or girl, black or white.

“It’s an old song. From the 60’s. When I was young.”

It was his signature.   The way Rolex put their name on a watch.   He personalized every ring tone before he sold it on the street.   And every phone had the same song.

Just walk away, Renee
You won’t see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You’re not to blame

From deep inside the tears that I’m forced to cry
From deep inside the pain that I chose to hide.

For Microblogging Monday

Books and Remembrances of Women Past

This was a difficult week. I started packing, initiating the process of leaving the house I have shared with Sophia for so many years. Sure, it’s only taken me six years to get this point of taking action, but I like to take my time.

Holy crap, I didn’t realize that I had accumulated so many books since college. I ended up with twenty boxes of books. And as for the question that V-grrrl snarkily asked me on Twitter, “Have you actually READ them all?” my answer is, “Have you worn ALL of the shoes in your closet?”

I recently bought a Kindle, and proudly announced to the world the end of the physical book. Who needs the physical book anymore? Let’s save the trees! Words are words, whether on paper or e-ink. But as I went through my books this week, in an attempt to weed out those that I wanted to give away, I reconnected with so many of these books, some which I haven’t looked at since college, as if they were old friends I just rediscovered on Facebook.

For me, the relationship of man and book has less to do with the content of the book, or even whether I bothered to read it. It is the living and breathing book itself. The physical book could light a memory that has nothing to do with the story, but about carrying the book in the subway in 1988, and the nodding agreement of the older gentleman carrying the same tome, and feeling as if I was in a private club.

As I prepared my moving boxes, my aim was to give away half of my old books, but after sorting through them, one by one, chatting to each about “old times,” I reduced my giveaway to only three boxes. There was no reason to hold on to “Tasty Oriental Dishes in Five Minutes? After really, after twelve years of owning SQL for Dummies, shouldn’t I just accept that I will always be a DUMMY with SQL?

As a self-diagnosed co-dependent, it didn’t surprise me to discover that many of the books in my collection, even the most unlikely of the bunch, are connected to different women from the past, imaginary and real girlfriends, unrequited love, lucky nights, and utter disasters.

The Whole PC Family Encyclopedia

Amy showed me how to use Compuserve, and then promptly flirted with me online. I was as slow to warming up to this modern form of sexual relationship as was my dial-up modem to connecting to the Internet. She soon found another guy to message, and we lost touch.

History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics

Do I remember anything about this book from college? No. Do I remember this Marxism course or the pretentious professor’s name? No. Do I remember my first experience with getting oral sex during that study session with Hannah after we talked about Marxist Dialectics? Yes. Will I ever read this book again? No. Will I ever give it away? Absolutely not. Never.

To Be a Jew

Michaela was religious. Because of her, I went bonkers and immediately decided to become a rabbi. I ended up going to film school in Los Angeles instead.  Mistake.

Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party

I wrote a play that was performed at a small theater. The play was awful, a ripoff of Harold Pinter’s style.  No one sleeps with the writer in Hollywood. Except Margaret.

Mad Libs

Shari was crazy, but her dirty word suggestions when we played Mad Libs made our short-lived friendship oh-so-worthwhile. I think she is now a Scientologist.

Selling Your Screenplay

Writing Class. Nothing ever happened with Karen. I just fantasized about her all the time in class and never wrote anything.  She is now very successful, married to a woman.

Erotic Arts

This is a very boring book about sexuality in the arts, but when Jamie came to visit for the weekend, I placed this book (along with some cheesy “Book of the Month Club” selection titled “Sensual Massage”) in the center of my bookcase, hoping that she would notice them while checking out my books (something I always do when I go visit someone) and say to me, “Ooh, what interesting books you have, Neil. How would you like to give me a sensual massage and then we fuck like wild beasts?” Sadly, we spent the night sitting on the couch, fully clothed, eating Pop Tarts, and watching a Twilight Zone marathon on TV.

Curious George

I met Sophia online. Our first conversation online was about our favorite books. She said hers was “The Little Prince.” I said, half-jokingly, that it was “Curious George.” This became a personal running gag for years. We even had a large Curious George doll sitting nearby at our wedding. Oddly, someone stole it during the reception.

Books are not about reading. They are about women.

My Brilliant Literary Career


Last week, Sophia was all upset about the James Frey story and his fraudulent memoir, "A Million Little Pieces." Well, actually, she was more upset at me. 

"It’s pretty clear that the book got sold because they thought he was an alcoholic and drug abuser."


"So, you have no grit in your life.  You don’t even like beer."

"I like Merlot."

"No one wants to buy a memoir from someone who drinks Merlot.  You’re like that depressing guy from Sideways."

"I’ve smoked pot."

"When was the last time you smoked pot?"

"When I was 14.  But I didn’t really inhale."

"Jeez, you’re so vanilla.  Did you know I once went out with someone who liked to be spanked."


"He was a college professor."

"Why would anyone want to be spanked?  All my life, I’ve been proud that my mother never once had to spank me when I was a kid.  What would I tell her now?  Sorry, Mom, now I get spanked all the time."


So much for anyone ever buying my boring memoirs. 

But what about fiction? 

Well, today, there was another nail in the coffin for my non-existent writing career.

"Did you read Gawker today?" asked Sophia.


"Have you heard of Opinionista?"


"Well, it’s a blog written by an anonymous blogger, and it’s all about the inside stuff going on at her law firm."


"So, she just revealed herself as Melissa Lafsky!"

"Do we know her?"

"No, but read this."

Sophia handed me "The New York Observer."  There was another article about this woman:

In recent months, Ms. Lafsky has been fluffing the pillows for her landing, a sort of “soft opening” phase for her product launch. Profiled but not named in The New York Times in November, she posed so that her face was obscured; in this month’s The American Lawyer, she hinted that her identity would soon be revealed; and her blog plugged an interview with The Observer minutes after the interview was complete.
Of course, prior to this week’s non-spontaneous self-disclosure, Ms. Lafsky had already procured herself an agent—ICM’s blog-adoring Kate Lee —and worked up 100 pages of a manuscript loosely based on her life as a lawyer-blogger. (“It’s not a roman à clef,” she said. “It’s not The Devil Wears Brooks Brothers!”)

(Talented, Beautiful, and can Blog without looking at the monitor)
(photo by Melanie Flood)

I wasn’t sure what Sophia wanted me to make of all this.

"Good for her," I said.   "Or is this another one of those "I hate Stephanie Klein – type stories?"

"Don’t you get it," Sophia replied,  "There have been a number of anonymous bloggers that have gotten a lot of buzz by creating a mystery about who they are… and then they make a big reveal.  Do you see where this is going?"


"Only a really dumb blogger starts using his real name right from the beginning.  Like Neil Kramer.  You should have just been "Citizen of the Month" and then had a big reveal."

"Too late now."

"There’s nothing new for you to reveal.  Nothing buzz-worthy."

"I don’t know.  We can say I’m gay."

"Hmm…not bad.  We’re already separated.  We can say we got separated because you decided you were gay. 

"Good… good.. just how long do I have to be gay for?"

"Until you sell a book."

Jeez, that could be a long time."

"Well, you’ve always had a problem with procrastination.  Finally, we found a way to keep you focused.   No sex with a woman until you write a book."

"I’m not too sure about this idea." 

"Too much like a bad sitcom episode?"

"What if I’m gay, but you decide to transform me back to being straight again."

"Yeah, then I can write a book instead of you! — "The Gay Blogger and How I Made Him Straight Again.""

"Would I have to go around the rest of my life being known as "The Man Formerly Known as The Gay Blogger?"

Note:  After Melissa Lafsky signed with ICM agent Kate Lee and resigned from her law firm, she posed in a nightgown for a spread on female bloggers for a future issue of Fashion Week Daily.

Luckily, I’m all ready for my fashion shoot with my new Texas hold’em pajamas

Jane Austen and the Pussycats

Hey, DJ Neilochka here tonight for all those brainy lovers out there who WANT their literature with a little funk, their books with a little BOOGIE — this is for you — a literary/song mash-up where the button down babes of the 19th Century meet the bottoms up beauties of today.

What is a mash-up?

So, here we go, a mash-up of Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice" (now a movie!) and The Pussycat Dolls "Don’t Cha." 



Pride and Prejudice – Chapter One

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

I know you like me (I know you like me)
I know you do (I know you do)
Thats why whenever I come around
Shes all over you (she’s all over you)
I know you want it (I know you want it)
Its easy to see (it’s easy to see)
And in the back of your mind
I know you should be f***ing me (babe)

"My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?"

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

"But it is," returned she; "for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it."

Mr. Bennett made no answer.

"Do not you want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife impatiently.

"You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."

This was invitation enough.

Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?
Don’t cha
Don’t cha
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was fun like me?
Don’t cha
Don’t cha

"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week."

"What is his name?"


"Is he married or single?"

"Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!"

I know I’m on your mind
I know we’d have a good time
I’m your friend
I’m fun
And I’m fine
I aint lying
Look at me shit
You ain’t blind (you ain’t blind)
I know I’m on your mind

"How so? how can it affect them?"

"My dear Mr. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them."

"Is that his design in settling here?"

"Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes."

Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?(like me)
Don’t cha (Don’t cha baby)
Don’t cha
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend raw like me? (raw)
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend fun like me (big fun)
Don’t cha
Don’t cha

Keep it Real.  Peace.  DJ Neilochka – OUT!

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