Happy Valentine's Day! The first literary fiction title we're distributing is bound to delight the romantics and Jane Austen fans among our readers. Due out one month from tomorrow, March 15, 2018, Dov Zeller's The Right Thing to Do at the Time, has already picked up these early reviews:
Sweet, Silly Homage to Austen's Original. The Normalcy with Which His Transness Is Addressed Is Refreshing.
"It's the Jewish, genderqueer update of Pride and Prejudice we've all been waiting for!...The plot pays sweet, silly homage to Austen's original...as Zeller immerses the reader in Jewish New York, complete with bubbies, kugel, and footnotes to translate the generous sprinkling of Yiddish. Ari's deep connection to Jewish music adds touching depth, and the normalcy with which his transness is addressed is refreshing....With corny humor and a knack for inner and outer chaos, Zeller's debut uses a familiar frame to explore the many facets of love--romance, sure, but also intimacy between friends and the painful love of family."
—Susan Maguire, Booklist, February 15, 2018
The Story Scintillates. Charming as Hell. Zeller's Clever Style Is All His Own.
"...[A] sex-positive, LGBTQ-friendly, Jewish, New York City take on Pride and Prejudice, with Aristanding in for Elizabeth Bennett and Itche standing in for Jane. Its character developments toe that line fairly closely,if relationships are often jostled in the mix. That’s where derivations end, though. Zeller’s clever style is all his own. ...[M]ore often than not, the story scintillates. Its language and plot turns are charming as hell, and its awed and irreverent takes on the classics—Austen, yes, but also Jewish tradition more broadly—make it absolutely geshmak—or, if Ari isn’t available to footnote that for you, transcendently delicious. There’s a reason that Austen’s tale of misfits elbowing their way into love became beloved; all of the same ingredientsare operating here, enlivened by a healthy dose of Yiddish humor."
—Michelle Anne Schingler, Foreword Reviews, March/April 2018, 5 hearts
High-Spirited Romantic Comedy
"A clever, high-spirited romantic comedy that, while structured loosely on Pride and Prejudice, will keep you guessing right up until the end. Zeller's first book is a wise meditation on friendship and love, in which the author coins and illustrates the maxim that 'The distance between friendship and romantic love is never so great that they can’t fall down and knock heads.' This book is bursting with many of my favorite things: witty banter, slapstick humor, soulful music, a blizzard, a beach house, and a dog!"
Wonderful and profound—and a pleasure to read
"It is hard to imagine that a book conceiving of itself as a Jewish trans retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice could succeed at capturing what is most inimitable about Jane Austen—the unpretentious lucidity with which she observes the fullness of the human condition as it is reflected in a small, constrained milieu. Yet Dov Zeller's The Right Thing to Do succeeds wondrously, not least of all because he gets at what, for Franz Rosenzweig, is the core of Jewish existence: the eternal, timeless quality expressed through the repetition of the yearly liturgical cycle. Much like Jane Austen's novels, and like much great Yiddish literature, The Right Thing to Do seems to take place outside of, or at least to the side of history. It lacks the grandiosity that characterizes the typical American novel; it does not collapse, as most "important" American novels do, under the weight of somehow registering the world-historical significance which Americans almost instinctively believe attaches to their existence. Here history touches gently and comically, if not un-seriously, as in the Bar Mitzvah speech, or as a dark limit to understanding, as in the evocations of the melodies of the vanished world of the shtetl. Moreover, non-Jews are almost entirely—perhaps entirely—absent. This might seem like a odd choice in any novel, and especially one about trans- and queer-life: yet it ultimately makes perfect sense. The melodies that Ari transcribes and composes are are essentially Jewish, indeed perhaps only fully legible to those who hear them as the melodies of Jewish prayer, and yet nevertheless exist in a state of continual flux and transformation. The Right Thing to Do similarly, plays around an experience of sexuality that is at once utterly Jewish and utterly queer."
An Absolute Delight—Whimsical, Striking, and Very Queer
"Aching with feeling both sad and sweet, alive with wry humor, rich in portrayals of love in all its many changing, enduring, baffling faces—The Right Thing to Do tugs at the heart and upwards at the corners of the mouth all the way through. The characters are humanely, expertly portrayed in their oh-so-inexpert humanity and idiosyncracy. They are characters that are easy to adore, to relate to—and to desperately miss once the last page has been read. It is a triumphant tangle of queer sexuality, romance, and friendship. It is a treasure to have a novel, at last, about queer-platonic (and sometimes less platonic?) love, in all its wacky and wonderful ways. Winding its way between existential comedy, the shadow and structure of Jane Austen, and the sweetness of spiritual song—at once sorrow and exultation—this novel is a delightful mix of the earthy and earthly and the sublime within the lives of queer, trans, and otherwise non-typical protagonists. In that way, the novel is infinitely refreshing—it is populated with characters whose humanity is striking in its realness, and so welcome. All through the book, especially in the second half, the plot accelerates in a way that is believable, delightful—practically itchy in how compelling one's attachment to each character's outcome becomes. This is the kind of queer fiction that deserves to be read—and a first novel at that! It is so funny, and so desperately soulful. Let Mr. Zeller take you into this world for a little while. It might just remind you of the goodness and complexity of the human spirit, of community, of life."
—Calvin Payne-Taylor, author of Genderbound: An Odyssey from Female to Male