ago, Edward Schwarzschild’s grandparents lived in a row house
in Philadelphia. After growing up in his parents’ house in
Philly, and then studying creative writing at Cornell University,
Boston University, Washington University and Stanford University,
Schwarzschild today lives in a row house in Albany’s Center
Square. It makes sense to him.
like that’s going back a generation in my family,” says Schwarzschild,
who sits nestled behind a table at the Daily Grind. It’s his
favorite local coffee shop, and is only a brief stroll from
his house. “My grandparents lived in a row house, and I like
that. I feel connected.”
has been thinking a lot about his grandparents lately. His
mother’s father passed away in May, leaving his own parents
as the elders of his family.
have lived in the same house since the beginning of their
to be jealous of my friends who got to move,” says Schwarzschild
as he cracks a smile, “but now I feel really lucky that my
parents stayed in one house. My dad grew up minutes from the
house he ended up living in. My mom grew up 15 minutes from
that house. They are a pretty entrenched Philadelphia family,
and how could I not be inspired and influenced by that?”
latest collection of short stories begins with “Open Heart,”
which deals with an elderly couple who suddenly realize they
are in their twilight years.
do take off on these characters who are similar to but [are]
not my grandparents,” says Schwartzschild. “I didn’t disguise
them much at all, but I started the story as a way to honor
like William Kennedy, the man he works with in his appointment
as a member of the New York State Writers Institute, brings
his childhood home to life in his work—especially in his first,
highly praised novel, Responsible Men, a book that
is in some ways reflective of Schwarzschild’s life growing
up in Philly as a son of a salesman. This fall, Schwarzschild
will release The Family Diamond, his collection of
short stories about families in Philadelphia. And although
he brings it up as a side note, Schwarzschild also has been
named a Fulbright Scholar and will teach in Spain this fall.
position at the Writers Institute, Schwarzschild says, “You
know, it’s a dream job. I get to hang around with William
Kennedy and [Writers Institute director] Don Faulkner and
all the writers who come through. And I get to teach creative
remembers the process of hiring Schwarzschild, and the praise
and regard Schwarzschild’s name brought with it.
all true,”Kennedy says proudly.
great things from him. I expect him to have a place in the
high level of American literature as time goes on.”
Kennedy, Schwarzschild no longer lives with his city/muse,
but for Schwarzschild, Albany is the next best thing.
written anything set in Albany yet, and hanging around with
Bill Kennedy, how could you possibly? But the space of Albany
and the kind of history of it that I’ve learned through Kennedy,
and through living here, is not dissimilar to my sense of
Philadelphia history, a history that goes back to pre-colonial
times, of really wacky characters; corrupt, crazy politicians;
and some good politicians and some good people. Albany does
not feel that unfamiliar to me.”
role as professor, Schwarzschild teaches both creative writing
and contemporary writing, and introduces his students to the
works of authors visiting the New York State Writers Institute.
When the writers arrive for their visits, Schwarzschild’s
students are familiar with the authors’ work and ready to
been here six years now, and if I started to rattle off writers
I’ve gotten to meet and listen to. . . . Even if you were
in New York or San Fransisco you wouldn’t get to meet this
quality, with this frequency and this convenience. I feel
incredibly lucky. I think my students are lucky, because they
get to meet the same writers that I meet. And that is what
keeps me here.”
also is able to guide the students through the process that
led him to refine his inspiration into his works—writings
that have already earned him comparisons to Arthur Miller.
I first started writing, in college, like so many undergraduate
writers, you start writing about things that have meaning
to you, really important things that build up your worldview,”
he says. “For a time that was my grandparents, my family,
and I guess I’ve stuck with that a little bit longer than
some people have.”
child, Edward Schwarzschild was told there was one thing he
could not be when he grew up. His father insisted that his
son not follow in Dad’s footsteps and be a salesman. So when
Schwarzschild veered off the premed track at Cornell to explore
his love of creative writing, all he had to do to console
his family was promise to get a master’s degree.
Schwarzschild’s recent work has drawn directly on his family
for inspiration, down the line he thinks he might draw inspiration
from a Schwarzschild he is not familiar with.
been fascinated about someday writing about this distant,
distant cousin Karl Schwarzschild. He worked with Einstein’s
forumlas and discovered these things called black holes, and
has this thing called the Schwarzschild radius he gets credit
radius by definition is “the radius of a collapsing celestial
object at which gravitational forces exceed the ability of
matter and energy to escape, resulting in a black hole.” An
object smaller than its Schwarzschild radius is a black hole.
Schwarzschild’s story is a compelling one, but for now, Ed
Schwarzschild intends to further explore his connections to
the Schwarzschilds in Philadelphia.
says Schwarzschild’s relationship with Philadelphia is one
that he can explore for the rest of his career if he chooses
to, wherever else he goes. It’s a relationship Kennedy thinks
the younger writer may well be stuck with.
that Joyce wrote took place in the turn of the century into
the teens of the century, and he spent all these years in
Paris and never goes home again. So it’s what is in the mind
and the memory that will determine what Ed will want to do
with it. A writer is very lucky when he has this. I don’t
know how many times writers have envied me and wished they
had a town like Albany in their history. Edward has Philadelphia,
and that’s a fate the individual has to cope with.”
Schwarzschild will read from The Family Diamond on
Sept. 7 at 7 PM at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. For
more info, call 489-4761.