Category Archives: celebration


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Hello friends!

I hope you are enjoying this festive holiday season the way God intended, by drinking too much and watching terrible television:

The goyim had “Peter Pan Live!”; now the Jews get their turn at a televised hot mess with the two-part Lifetime Original miniseries “The Red Tent,” based on the Anita Diamant’s book of the same title, and starring Brody’s wife from “Homeland” as Rachel and Jorah Mormont from “Game of Thrones” as patriarch Jacob. Chaverim, it does not disappoint. Every element of this production is best taken with a grain—or even a pillar—of salt.

Besides writing snarky reviews of Lifetime movies, here is a glimpse at what I’ve been up to lately:

  • Joyland Magazine has published the beginning of my novel THE SEX LIVES OF OTHER PEOPLE on its website. The excerpt is titled “You Said ‘Always'” and can be read in its entirety here. Meanwhile I have collapsed from in excitement in this other corner over here.
  • Don’t you think supermarkets should set up “Serial” aisles so that we can have a place to gather and exchange theories about the podcast phenomenon? Until that happens, there’s always my weekly recaps for New York Magazine’s Vulture blog.
  • Speaking of “Serial” — and “Transparent,” “Broad City,” “Obvious Child” and many other high quality pop cultural properties — I declared 2014 the year of Jewish women at Flavorwire.
  • The most recent episode of NPR’s game show “Ask Me Another” featured a game that I wrote for them. Someday perhaps I will ascend to the level of Puzzle Guru and be able to break boards with my hands.

Encompassing late-career epics and ambitious debuts, they consider the after-effects of everything from apocalypse to adultery, and reckon with religion and war using dreams, magic, science fiction, and occasionally nothing but the power of prose. Sometimes, in the grand tradition of The Wizard of Oz, they take us no further than the Midwest, America’s own backyard, to teach us about ourselves: our desires, our secrets, and our fascination with what makes an enduring story.

I’m still an editor at the Billfold, where you can find me on a daily basis asking the tough questions like “How Much Do You Spend on Tattoos” and thinking deep thoughts about boots. We’re having our live event at Housing Works in NYC at the end of January! More specific info TK.

Other delightful things:

  • Happy Release Day, Tara Leigh!
  • My It’s The Real cousins hanging out with Annie
  • Last night Lara bit me on the leg and then spent five minutes crying while I hugged her and told her it would be okay. #parenthood
  • You all! You’re running marathons and selling books and getting pregnant on purpose. Please keep sharing your good news. The regular news is so appalling we need all the local cheer we can get.

For more, follow me on Twitter @shorterstory. Many thanks for paying attention! Wherever you are, may it only rain when you’re sleeping and may your rent never go up.

Writing Life Update #2, 7/31/14

Here is a quick round-up of exciting events in the writing life of Ester Bloom:
  • Last night I finished a series of four readings in four months. Thank you so much to everyone who came out! For one, in honor of Father’s Day, I read my essay about love, language, and whether we can ever really know our parents, “Papa-loshen.” For the others, I read the beginning, middle, and end of my award-winning (!) essay about Year 1 in New York City, “One Way to Shut Her Up.”
  • The New York Times feature Op-Talk is a curated selection of thought-provoking reads from the web. It has featured a piece I wrote for the Nation, my work on The Billfold, and most recently my advice column at the Toast, Aunt Acid. I wouldn’t say the Gray Lady has embraced me exactly, but she is allowing me to approach near enough these days to touch the hem of her garment. 
  • Speaking of Aunt Acid, her second column is now up! This one’s about sisters. I may not know anything about having a sister but luckily Aunt Acid knows all. Got a bellyache? Email
  • For Longreads, I recommend a couple of heartbreaking, fascinating New Yorker essays that are available to read for free for a limited time. Rachel Aviv, call me! Let’s get cannoli and watch something fun on Netflix.
  • Lastly, in the mood for some fiction? An excerpt from my novel Applebaum, Agent of God, is up at Zeek. It’s called “Angels Out of America” and includes a co-starring role for the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center.
More? You can find me at Barnes & Noble, where I have been reviewing some great literary debuts by female writers, or the Billfold, where I write at least three posts a day and recently summed up the costs and benefits of taking a year to DWYL (Do What You Love). The piece has been turned into an audio file, so that you can listen to it on the go, by the folks at

B is for Bulgy

When I was almost 7 months pregnant, and almost 3 months from D-Day, I was convinced that I looked like this:

I wasn’t too far off, either. I comforted myself with the knowledge that it could be worse, of course: I could look like Cookie Monster. Then I went to Vermont for my 2-week residency. The key to pregnancy self-esteem, it turns out, is:

1) wear maternity clothes from Brooklyn outside of Brooklyn (the other fellows exclaimed over my dresses, none of which would get a second glance in Park Slope);

2) be the only pregnant lady in the immediate vicinity, which guarantees you affectionate attention; and

3) live in an artificial, artsy, heady world totally lacking in full-length mirrors.

Returning to the real world took some adjusting, of course, but it was good practice for the summer’s real challenge: attending, at 8 months pregnant, my brother’s wedding to a bona fide Santa Barbara princess at her parents’ ranch. I knew she would look gorgeous, and she did.

All hail the bride!

My brother was no slouch either in his custom-made three piece suit — he looked, as I told him, like a young Roger Sterling. The setting itself was as lush, flowering, spacious, warm, and sunny as anyone could have wished. The female guests, not to be outdone by the wedding party or location, tottered around in blow outs, tiny, brightly-colored cocktail dresses, and heels that were almost as high as their hemlines. The one pair of fancy sandals I attempted to compliment turned out to be Miu Miu; after that, I realized I was unqualified even to express admiration.

Were all the girls blond, or did it just seem that way? Regardless, altogether it was the best-looking wedding I’ve ever attended. And there I was, the groom’s short, curly-haired, boob-splosion of a sister in platforms from Aerosoles and haute couture from Madison Rose maternity that may well have cost less than my corsage, and a belly that looked like it contained a Thanksgiving turkey. In a way, it was a gift. How can you be expected to compete with a bunch of tanned, skinny Real Housewife-types when there’s a second, almost-full-term human being inside you? I probably got more sorta-compliments (“You’re carrying so well!”) than those glamazons got actual compliments.

Now I’m back and heading into the home stretch. Wedding accomplished! I made it across the country and back again, lugging around a 4.5 pound, very energetic octopus of some kind, and I even managed to dance. (The band was incredible and also, duh, attractive. Total hipster chic.) In two days, I turn 30 — THIRTY — and after that, in mere weeks, I unceremoniously expel Squee from her comfortable, portable bio-dome and become a parent. What should I be doing with my last precious minutes of youth and freedom?

Ten Alternatives to “Love, Actually”

My deep antipathy to “Love, Actually” stretches back to the first night I saw it — with friends in college, while I was our school newspaper’s film critic. We borrowed a car to drive to the suburban multiplex and ran out of gas on the way home. We split up so some of us could stay with the vehicle, and others of us could hike to a gas station and back with a bright red plastic jug, and we all swore not to tell the car’s owner what had happened — and that experience was vastly more memorable than the film itself.

That is to say: I didn’t like the movie then, even though I went in with high hopes (Colin Firth! Emma Thompson!). Now, because it has been canonized into something like a Christmas classic and everyone keeps talking about it like it’s some kind of puppy with a bow around its neck, even smart people on sites I adore, I think it should be fucked in the ass with a toilet plunger.

Here are ten far better alternatives to enjoy this holiday season:


1) WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. The original contemporary romantic comedy where everything pivotal happens over Christmas and New Years. (Just like in real life!) It’s smart and insightful and rueful and funny; Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan have the kind of chemistry together that makes you root for them to join the crew of old marrieds whose interviews pop up over the course of the film.

2) THE APARTMENT. Billy Wilder knows what’s up. His version of a mid-century NYC Christmas is about drinking, manipulation, bad jobs, worse sexual choices, unrequited love, suicidal ideation, and card games played at pivotal moments — just like the rest of the year, in fact, only more so. When the two flawed but precious main characters, played by Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacClaine, end up finding love and even redemption, we know that they’ve really earned it.

3) THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Before Tim Burton went all CGI-crazy on us and got so involved in his toys that he forgot how to be creative, he gave the world this all-singing, all-dancing, all-Claymation bonanza. A totally creepy and fabulous holiday classic.

4) DIE HARD. An intelligent action movie with a feminist subplot and a delightfully German villain played by Alan Rickman. This movie puts the “pop” in pop culture AND popcorn movie; it is entertainment the way it should be done.

5) Tie: SCROOGED and BRAZIL.  Both of these movies scared the shit out of me when I first saw them — in the best possible way. Who’s more of a genius at darkness, Bill Murray or Terry Gilliam? Now that’s a question for the ages.



6) Tie: THE WEST WING Christmas episodes “Noel” from Season 2 and “Holy Night” from Season 4. Two Jewish guys, Josh and Toby, against the background of a holiday they don’t celebrate, get to show us what they’re made of — courage, intelligence, bitterness, vulnerability — and Aaron Sorkin gives them some of the best writing from the entire show to do it.

7) THE SIMPSONS’ very first Christmas episode, “Simpsons Roasting on a Open Fire,” featuring Santa’s Little Helper and Bart’s inspired tattoo.

8) THE OFFICE’s first Christmas episode pulls on my heartstrings so hard I always fear they’ll snap. Jim quietly tries to express his feelings for Pam via a gift that is misappropriated in a “Yankee Swap.”

9) 30 ROCK “Christmas Special.” Bring Elaine Stritch into anything and it immediately becomes 9o times better than anything Richard Curtis could do. Sorry, Dick. Them’s the breaks.

10) THE OC, “Chrismukkah,” again from Season One. Seth Cohen (Adam Brody, who is no less cute for being like 31) celebrates his family’s made up holiday in one of the most enjoyable eps from a highly enjoyable show’s one and only good season.


There. You’re welcome. You have no excuse to open up that cloying box of nonsense that is “Love, Actually” ever again.

The Great European Cities Tour of America

My very first Hairpin piece is up! Check it out: The  Great European Cities Tour of America.

“It is a fact both true and sad that Europe, while awesome and filled with classy old buildings, is expensive. A boyfriend  backpacking there after the decline of the dollar told me he missed fruit, which cost too much, and made the wistful  request that I eat grapes for him. He also gave up shaving rather than shell out for razors.

But unsightly facial hair and scurvy need not be the prices you pay for travel! Not if you do it right. …”

Go read it! Then come back for a meta-discussion.

For the Berlin section, editrix extraordinaire Edith Zimmerman and I went back and forth about what a funny motto for  Berlin would be. I suggested, “The city where the sweet old man feeding pigeons in the park may have turned your Nana  into a lampshade!” She pointed out, politely, that that was a bit of a shift in tone from the rest of the piece.

After much deliberation & brainstorming, I presented her with the following less macabre alternatives:

* “BERLIN: The city that runs on Spaetzle.”

* “BERLIN: The city where even six-year-olds are cooler than you.”

* “BERLIN: Where even Hitler fell in love.”

* “BERLIN: Where they are really, really sorry about that thing that happened.”

Which one do you like best? Can you suggest something better? Edith went with “spaetzle,” which WordPress spell-check does not recognize as a word, btw. But I have eaten it at the Neue Gallerie’s restaurant and I have learned it is for real. It is real inside you for DAYS.


ETA: This has now been cross-posted on the Awl. Wow. The day a girl comes across herself on Google reader is a happy day indeed.

Jewish Christmas

As far as I’m concerned, the holiday season has already begun. My email inbox at work looks like Target on a Sunday afternoon, while the only phone call I’ve gotten has been from a guy in Ghana. In a couple hours, the office closes completely.

In terms of seasonal semiotics, I’m set. Boston got coated in snow while I was there for a multi-day conference, and last night, my friend Logan and I toured the famously — and egregiously — ornate neighborhood decorations of Dyker Heights.

All presents for Russian Christmas, to be observed this year on Sunday the 26th, are bought. They require only ribbons.

But before we get to the beets-and-vodka version of this holiday’s celebration with the family in Westchester, we have to make it through Actual Christmas Eve and Actual Christmas Day in Brooklyn. Which means deciding between:

OPTION I: X-MAN: A True Grit and Fighter double-header.
PROS: Great acting. Or, at least, great-looking guys acting tough.
CONS: Too much testosterone can make hair sprout in odd places.

OPTION II: XX-MAS: Tiny Furniture and Black Swan
PROS: Spending time with the ladies. Body image issues engendered by one will be canceled out by the other.
CONS: That would be a lot of obsession for one holiday.


OPTION III: XXX-MAS: Love and Other Drugs and I Love You, Phillip Morris.
PROS: Beautiful naked people doing what beautiful naked people do best.
CONS: The movies are supposed to be flawed, even if the bodies on screen aren’t.

The Blog is Dead; Long Live the Blog

RIP Babblebook (2001-2010). I figured it was about time to get more serious & professional about my web presence, so here you are, world! Welcome to the new and not-yet-entirely-fabulous

The essays now live here, including the four currently up and a space reserved for the fifth, slated to be published 12/15. So are the features and the poems.

Thanks to Meredith for the inspiration and some very valuable tips. Both are always welcome.

engaged to the teeth

locket #1
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.

you can’t see too well but in this picture, taken by ms. tara leigh last night in the village, i’m wearing the locket my grandmother just gave me. inside are pictures of my grandfather and her from the early 40s when THEY got engaged; the locket had been his gift to her, since he couldn’t afford a ring. it’s an incredible piece: she seems like a movie star, and as for my grandfather — tara leigh took one look at him and shrieked, “Spidey!”

Meaning that the oh-so-dignified late father of my mother resembles Tobey Maguire. Personally I think the Yolato must have gone to her head.

The whole weekend was crazy, although largely in the best possible way. Wednesday Mr. Ben finished his VERY LAST FINAL EVER and we celebrated by attending his law skool’s Barrister’s Ball at the Tavern on the Green. I was a bit scared the restaurant’s 14-foot-wide blue chandeliers would swing low and swallow me up; luckily, we spent most of our time out on the patio under much friendlier lanterns, which did not look like remnants from a giant whorehouse.

Friday, Mr. Ben donned a bright purple gown — all the rage in graduation fashion — and crossed the stage to be hooded in a very lengthy ceremony that featured Winner of the Barack Obama prize for Most Inspiring Politican, Mr. Cory Booker of Newark. We celebrated -that- by dining at Tabla with his entire family. Both sides were on their best behavior, as they were again the NEXT night, for the engagement party my aunt and uncle threw us at Pescatore (which was, coincidentally, May 12, the anniversary of our engagement).

About 25 people came to salute us and wish us well over the four hour meal. I can finally attest to the fact that the food was delicious since I’m eating it right now for lunch. At the time, all the speechmaking and toasting in our honor left me too overwhelmed to eat.

The next day, of course, was mother’s day. Luckily my mom and my grandmother were still in town, and Mr. Ben and I hung out with them in the city until they headed back to DC and then went to meet Tara Leigh for church! Because what better way to cap off a weekend? I’d never been to a Protestant service before and I didn’t like the idea of Jesus Camp being my representative experience of an American Christian religious service.

No wafers’n’wine (the Presbyterians don’t do that) which is cool since I’m still off sugar. I sort of bowed my head when everyone else did and waited patiently for the songs to be over, and otherwise listened intently to the sermon that made up 75% of the service. I think it helped me realize how starved I am for textual analysis and also maybe for religious instruction. Even if I’m not a religious person by the standards of religious people, it’s how I grew up and I miss talking about and reading about the Bible sometimes in an intellectual way.

The easy answer would be to go to shul, our synagogue in Brooklyn Heights. That seems more threatening, though, like it would mean increased devotion or religiousity on my part, and that’s not what I’m looking for. Maybe I just need to get back into full-speed writing of the novel.