From: Norman Waksler Fiction
Published: Wed Sep 07 2005

Waksler is a dedicated life-long writer who published his first story in Samisdat in 1979. Recently, he was the winner of the 2004 Chaffin Award for Fiction and a new story of his appeared in the spring 2005 issue of Bibliophilos. Some of his other short works of literary fiction appear in Best American Short Stories 1980 and issues of Ascent, Greensboro Review, Kansas Quarterly, Hanging Loose, Story Quarterly, Madison Review, Potpourri, and Main Street Rag.

Asked by his publisher to suggest a title for his new book, Waksler reread the selections and realized that each one wrapped around some small kernel of regret—words spoken or not, decisions made or not, love declared or not, a failure of courage, a retreat from knowledge, test, risk—but never from truth.

According to Boston poet and writer Laura Cherry, Waksler’s stories "conjure irony and humor, richly detailed prose and authentic voices, but no easy answers or redemptions":

"...The Book of Regrets is no mere catalogue of disappointments, no nihilistic checklist of roads not taken, no Aesopean romp through the standard virtues and vices. Nor will you find capital-R redemption accompanied by an overwrought violin score at the close of each story. Waksler has done what’s harder – to mirror our actual experience of regret: the consolation that seems small but, on second thought, will do to salvage pride and self-worth; the temporary epiphany that serves to carry us at least to the next moment; or, once every great while, the savage pinch of self-knowledge we can no longer ignore."

"What kind of stories are these? They are literate, intelligent and earthy, lofty and quotidian, earnest and ironic. They are the kind of stories into which you relax deeply, then stop short to take note of a particular word as if for the first time, or to say, "Hey, listen to this sentence," to whoever else is in the room."

In "An Introduction to Fine Arts," for example, a Waksler protagonist visiting New York City is on his way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to rendezvous with an old lover (and possibly to find a place to stay the night). His comical "conversation" with the cab driver foreshadows the kind of truth telling that may destroy even the remnants of a relationship.

"He said to the cabby, "I don’t ordinarily talk to cab drivers, in part from unavoidable middle-class snobbishness, but also because I can never think of anything to say that even fringes on real conversation. But your style of driving suggests a certain solidity of character, New York makes me uncomfortable, and I’ve been unsettled recently. So I speak to you now hoping for a moment of human contact that will prevent me from feeling completely irrelevant. How’s the crime in New York these days?"

"The cab advanced through three green lights before the driver without looking back at Philip responded. "The fact is, to me you’re just another visitor in a suit with a carryall. You represent a fare and what I hope will be a decent tip. I don’t expect to hear anything from you that will improve my life or even my day. My snap judgment based on your looks—thin, graying, pinched, pained, ingrown—is of someone with little to offer. But since I’m not a bad fellow myself, the constraints of sociability and my unwillingness to hurt your feelings unnecessarily force me to talk with you. Better. Crime is down...."

When not writing, Norman Waksler works in the North Cambridge branch of the public library. Raised in Providence, RI, he moved to Boston for college and has remained in the area ever since. His previous jobs—excellent background for a dedicated writer—have included taxi driver, warehouseman, bookseller, janitor, schoolteacher, magazine distributor, camp director, convenience store salesclerk, and librarian. He has published many stories over the years, some receiving prizes. In 1998 the Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded him a fellowship in fiction. He lives in North Cambridge with his sociologist wife Frances Chaput Waksler, and a menagerie of pets. These always include a small dog, one of which is a main character in a number of short stories in The Book of Regrets.
Company: Norman Waksler Fiction
Contact Name: Mary Ellen Lepionka
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 978-283-1531

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