The Prophet of Tenth Street

A Novel

By Tsipi Keller

Subjects: Fiction, Jewish Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438442082, 231 pages, March 2012

Alternative formats available from:

A literary love story.


In this literary love story, Marcus Weiss, a loyal denizen of New York City, retires at age fifty to work on a dictionary he has grandly titled "The Human Gesture in Western Literature. " Comparing himself to Flaubert, who read fifteen hundred books in order to compose his Bouvard and Pécuchet—Marcus immerses himself in literature, culling quotations and passages for his dictionary and treating his friends to impromptu readings of the "pearls" he finds, all the while lecturing them about the emptiness and futility of consumerism. His lover, Gina, and his best friend, Oscar, do their best to indulge him, but when they've had enough, they poke fun at this modern-day "prophet. " One day, while Marcus is at work in his warm and secluded study, an old man invades his imagination, and Marcus, enchanted, allows the old man entry and begins to write his biography. Soon, time distinctions blur: does Marcus, as he looks far into the future, imagine himself as an old man, living alone with his books, or is the old man the actual Marcus, now eighty years old, looking back and recounting a time in his life when his dear ones—Gina, Oscar, and all his other contemporaries—were still living?

Tsipi Keller was born in Prague, raised in Israel, and has been living in the United States since 1974. Her short fiction and her poetry translations have appeared in many journals and anthologies, and her novels include Jackpot and Retelling. Keller has also translated several poetry collections, including Dan Pagis's Last Poems, Irit Katzir's And I Wrote Poems, and her own edited collection, Poets on the Edge: An Anthology of Contemporary Hebrew Poetry, also published by SUNY Press. She lives in West Palm Beach, Florida.


"Tsipi Keller has taken us into a writer's very being. It is hard work and all-consuming … This is a provocative story that stays with the reader. " — Jewish Book Council

"It is beyond difficult to write fiction about a fiction-maker; not only do you have to get into the guy's head, you've got to create a plot in which something actually happens. Keller does both, and in a way that's unnerving—how does she know so much about what it means to be a man, trapped in his head, convinced he will find and reveal the essential truths of life?" — Head Butler

"Poet and novelist Keller (Retelling) handles this poignant tale with the deftness of a writer who has struggled alongside her characters. " — Publishers Weekly

"In this haunting novel, Marcus Weiss is trapped in the legacy of the Holocaust and the presence of anti-Semitism. Writing a novel, and compiling a dictionary, he seeks to capture the totality of experience. The silences of the book, and Marcus's own collections of quotations, are eloquent and memorable. " — Lew Fried, Kent State University

"In elegant, pitch-perfect prose, Tsipi Keller explores what it means to be a writer in a post-Holocaust world. Her evocation of Marcus Weiss—at once tender and wise—lays bare the felt life of the novelist. Along the way, Keller pays honor to the human experience and to the artful language that gives us our measure. " — Andrew Furman, author of Israel Through the Jewish-American Imagination: A Survey of Jewish-American Literature on Israel, 1928–1995

"Marcus Weiss preaches the love of literature in a wilderness where people don't read. Moreover, he is a writer. He is writing a book about himself writing, and about his lover and his friends, who wonder if they'll appear in his book. He exhorts them to read books that matter, that make us more human, that make the mind dance. And the marvelous thing is that the book he is writing, which is the one we are reading, is just such a book, because Marcus is generous, opinionated, foolish, and inspired, not merely a creature of words and paper. I'm sure he would add Tsipi Keller to his list of favorite authors if he knew her. " — Joel Agee, author of Twelve Years: An American Boyhood in East Germany

Praise for the Hebrew Edition

"The Prophet of Tenth Street could serve as a basis for a Woody Allen movie: introspective characters, a New York arena, Jews and gentiles, occasional quotes of selected excerpts from the literary canon … Many readers will identify with Keller's characters. " — Yaakov Yoseph, Yedioth Ahronot

"Marcus Weiss, the protagonist of The Prophet of Tenth Street, is a man obsessed with books, and 'his' authors. His girlfriend, Gina, constantly tries to bring him down to earth and show him what real life is all about … His interior world is rich, and his literary knowledge and respect for the written word are admirable … One enjoys the richness of Keller's language, her descriptive powers, and the complex shaping of her characters. " — Osnat Blayer, Ma'ariv

"Keller's cinematographic descriptions bring to mind Bergman, Antonioni, and even Andy Warhol … Marcus Weiss is an intellectual, with an acute self-awareness … Marcus longs for a simple, primal human contact … His girlfriend, Gina, radiating her femininity, her libido, attempts to get him to live the everyday, the here and now in Manhattan, the most exciting and stimulating cultural center of the modern age … I think, therefore I am, seems to be his motto. " — Reuven Miran, Haaretz