Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The chosen one

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The Chosen by Chaim Potok

After the two novels [Chaim Potok] had written were reduced to one and the usual editorial work was accomplished, there remained a major problem: the title. I can’t remember what the original one was, but it was hopelessly fancy. Some books arrive with perfect titles, others don’t, and this was a severe example of the latter kind. No one could come up with anything plausible: The book had so many aspects that it seemed impossible to find something that reflected the whole. Very late in the day we still had no title, and a jacket had to be designed and the book announced.

What happened was one of the very few miracles I’ve ever stumbled into—maybe the only one. I was brooding on the problem as I was walking down the hall from my office to the men’s room when I ran into a man named Arthur Sheekman…Arthur was a screenwriter—he had written a bunch of the Marx Brothers movies, starting with Monkey Business, as well as movies for Eddie Cantor, Danny Kaye, and others—and he possessed a friendly elegance and refinement that made him a favorite on our floor. “You look worried,” he said to me as we passed each other in the hall. “What’s the problem?” So I told him I was going nuts trying to find a title for a book about boys in wartime Brooklyn, Hasidim, and baseball. “Call it The Chosen,” he said casually, and walked on. Literary history was made because I had to take a leak.

Robert Gottlieb, Avid Reader

Written by nevalalee

December 4, 2016 at 7:30 am

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